We all long for peace in our perilously divided world. So did all those who came before us. The Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” is based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells” written in 1863. The American Civil War was raging, without any expectation of ending. That same year, and without his blessing, Henry Longfellow’s oldest son, Charles, became a soldier in the Union army. Henry Longfellow received the news by letter dated March 14, 1863. Although Charles achieved lieutenant rank, he was severely wounded a few months later in November. On Christmas Day 1863, Henry Longfellow penned this poignant call for peace. The poet’s despair is captured in the phrase: “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” And yet, the bells signal renewed hope that there is indeed the possibility of peace for humanity.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said: “The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service.” Perhaps that is the first step towards peace. Continue reading