Many Christmas carols speak about peace on earth good will toward men, but as we look around the world at this Christmas 2020 it is hard to find peace on earth. There are deadly conflicts taking place all around the world, and recently there has been violence on our streets here in America. In the tumult of the 2020 election cycle it is clear that our own nation is at a crossroad in our history that will shape our future. In the midst of all of this America has clearly turned aside from its Christian heritage, and the true celebration of Christmas, and replaced it with a holiday season which leaves the Prince of Peace out. So where is this peace we sing about at Christmas, and is peace even possible in 2021?
On the first day of December 1863 during the Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was dining alone at his home when a telegram arrived with the news that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier in battle. His son, Charley, had been shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and nicked his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch. Charlie was carried into New Hope Church in Virginia. and then transported to Washington, D.C. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out to go to him arriving on December 3. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months. On Friday, December 25, 1863, Longfellow wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him that Christmas Day.
He wrote, “I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old, familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men. And thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom had rolled along the unbroken song of peace on earth, good-will to men. Till ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, of peace on earth, good-will to men! Then from each black, accursed mouth the cannon thundered in the South, and with the sound the carols drowned of peace on earth, good-will to men! It was as if an earthquake rent, the hearth-stones of a continent, and made forlorn the households born of peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said. “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
In the Bible we read the prophet Isaiah speaking about the coming of the Prince of Peace. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government there shall be no end. Isa. 9:6-7. But peace with God comes with a price. Because of our sin we are separated from God. Jesus, God’s one and only Son was willing to step out of heaven and come to the earth to reconcile God with man. All God asks from us is that we come to Him with our hands up indicating that we trust Him and believe that the price Jesus paid on the cross is sufficient to bring peace into our most sinful hearts.
So how do you receive this peace that Jesus was talking about? It is by simple faith in what Christ did for us on the cross that we can receive the peace that passes all understanding. Not unlike a gift given to us at Christmas, all we have to do is receive it. But unlike the presents we receive at Christmas, the peace that God offers through Jesus is eternal. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
May this Christmas bring peace to your heart,
Robert Andrews, Ph.D.