Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men!
Every day, the news we read, hear, and watch brings us face-to-face with tragedy, hatred, and dysfunction that mocks the notions of “peace on earth, good-will to men.” But the victory is already won.
Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men!
In the midst of bloody civil war, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose own son had been grievously wounded in the fighting, picked up his pen and offered these mournful passages:
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 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!"
Thankfully, the American nation does not find itself torn apart by war and bloodshed. The institutions of our republic remain strong, and, though the rhetoric of the disparate factions has reached a fevered pitch, the contest remains one of politics and not arms.
Nevertheless, this Christmas finds our nation in a dark place. Many Americans, from all corners of political persuasion, have grown convinced that significant groups of their fellow citizens constitute the gravest threat to their way of life. Many Americans across the country have embraced a view of politics that demands absolute defeat of their ideological foes to secure any kind of future for themselves and their values.
And, added to this political rancor is this dark winter of pandemic we find ourselves in. Thousands upon thousands of families across the country will have empty seats at the Christmas dinner table today. Far too many precious lives have been lost to the dreadful plague that is COVID-19. And, despite our best effort, thousands upon thousands more will die before we can at last put this dreadful chapter behind us.
Every day, the news we read, hear, and watch brings us face-to-face with tragedy, hatred, and dysfunction. It all seems to truly mock the notions of “peace on earth, good-will to men.”
But when times feel terrible, and the promises of the Prince of Peace feel out of reach, I often turn to several poignant passages of Latter-day Saint scripture:
If fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
Above the politics and above the noise of our earthly woes, I seek to carry the hope that came with the birth of Jesus Christ. Even in the midst of our country’s, and the world’s, woes, I seek to nevertheless be grateful that times such as these bring a sharp focus to what happened on that first Christmas and what that blessed event meant for the redemption of the human race.
He has already overcome the world. The victory is already won. This Christmas, no amount of despair can take away the joy and the peace that came with God’s gift to His children: the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
So, today, I can echo in full confidence the final words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem:
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."
- Merry Christmas!