Bells Ring

Nearly Christmas.  All is well.

That’s what I’m supposed to write, isn’t it?

Am I the only one who isn’t happy?

It’s hard to write when one is gloomy.  My mood matches the weather lately.  Cloud-bound and gray.

The world around me is angry.  Races are pitted against each other.  The wealthy and the poor are caught up in a war of the classes.  Friends battle with friends and brothers are angry with their brothers.

What’s not to be sad about?

I wonder.  Would it be okay for me to just  share a poem tonight?  The writer of these words had reason to be sad.  He had reason to be angry.

His wife had died from burns she received when her clothing caught fire.  In putting out the fire, he himself had been burned badly.

The next Christmas, he wrote this:  “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.”

The year after, at Christmas, he penned these words, “‘A Merry Christmas,’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

War raged in the countryside and his son was seriously injured in battle.  At Christmas that year, he was silent.


Ah!  But the next Christmas–the next Christmas, these timeless verses came.  And, with them–hope.

And, peace.

Christmas Bells

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!

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!”

He wrote the words exactly one hundred fifty-one years ago this Christmas. Death and war, pain and hatred, were the language of the day.  

The intellect of the poet said exactly what mine echoes today.

What’s the use?  Nothing changes.

But the heart–no, the very soul–of the believer knows.  It knows that the Child who was born on that first Christmas day brought with Him a message of Hope and Peace.  And Joy.

Joy that shall be to all people.  All people.

I think I’ll listen to the bells.

All is well.




“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
(Luke 2: 10,11,13,14 ~ KJV)

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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