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CHURCH CORNER: Look to the creator, the source of all hope
At the time of the Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote haunting words about Christmas celebration in the midst of such a horrific time. His words have rung true during most Christmas seasons ever since. I think it appropriate to revisit his words and to hear his conclusions this Christmas season a decade into the 21st century. 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.
I 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.
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.’”
Please allow me to interrupt Mr. Long-fellow’s tome to make a couple of obvious parallels. Couldn’t he have just as truthfully written those words yesterday? There is hate and discontent everywhere, even among demonstrations against hate and contention. President Obama says the men and women of the armed forces will be home from Iraq by Christmas. Does that mean that peace has come to Iraq? It seems doubtful doesn’t it?
I am a child of the ‘60s. I watched the civil rights marches on the evening news in real time. I cheered for them and prayed for them and wondered how there could be such hate for one group of people. And I truly believed that by the time the new century arrived we’d have come further than we have. I know I was young and naïve but it seemed like so many were so committed to really making the world more peaceful and less hateful, maybe you did too.
Now that I’m a “seasoned” citizen I know some things that I didn’t then. Then I believed that mankind possessed not only the will but the ability to reform itself and would employ all the nobleness and goodness it possessed to that end. I believed that old adage, “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” I guess I still do. But what I’ve come to see is that the will of mankind is more to his/her own well-being than to making the sacrifices personally that would make a more peaceful and loving world. What I didn’t know in my early youth was how deep suspicion and hatred could run.
But Mr. Longfellow knew a thing or two about peace and love and its genesis. His poem continues:
“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.”
The people of my youth, and indeed many of my progressing age, were and are looking to the wrong people and institutions for the leadership towards “peace on earth and good will towards men.” These most sacred hopes and aspirations are not to be found in human beings or in their institutions. Mr. Longfellow is right to look beyond these to our creator and find hope in him. He cries that all hope is not lost; God is not dead nor is he sleeping. Longfellow’s right to seek hope in God to bring about the crushing of evil and the rise of righteousness to people of all creeds and ethnicity. When peace finally comes to earth and people finally treat each other with dignity and respect it will be a God thing.
The Christmas season is a reminder of God’s invasion of planet earth and his setting into motion the plan that will eventually bring about what we long for.
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!
Merry Christmas to all, and may the prince of peace return soon.
By Ross Holtz, The Summit