Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas

It was 1864, the American Civil war dragged on. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was in no mood for Christmas. His beloved wife Fanny had died in a fire in 1861. His Son Charles was a second Lieutenant in the Company G of the 1st Massachusetts. On November 27, during the battle of New Hope Church, Virginia, he was shot through the left shoulder. The bullet nicked his spine, and exited under his right shoulder. His father was nursing him back to health. He wrote the following poem, which later was set to music as a Christmas Carol.

Christmas Bells
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(The original poem, complete with all seven stanzas)

"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!"

This is an interesting time we live in. The war in Iraq is officially over. Our troops there are in the process of leaving.  The Phrase Peace on Earth, Good Will to men, according to Luke, was sung by angels announcing the birth of a baby in the little Judean Hill Country town of Judea. It was the last place people would expect to find a Messiah. So, what did these words mean? They were supplied by a more mature Yeshua, as he stood and read from the scroll of Isaiah:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, 
   because he has anointed me 
   to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners 
   and recovery of sight for the blind, 
to set the oppressed free, 
   19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

'We have much to relate to with the poet. Two Thousand years later, the world is still at war. We look with uncertainty at North Korea, and Iran, and their leaders. We still have men and women in harm’s way in Afghanistan. But even more disturbing, is the bitter political wrangling which seems to paralyze our government.

As I reflect on Peace and Christmas, I ask a most fundamental question, How am I adding peace to the world? I reflect on the words attributed to Francis of Assisi.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

So, this holiday season, we greet each other, Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, or Happy Chanakuh. Underneath all of that, I ask, am I an instrument of Peace? 

No comments:

Post a Comment