“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, following the death of his wife and in the midst of the American Civil War. The sixth stanza reads: “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!’” Despite his grief, he clung to hope and faith: “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.’”
Jesus was born as our Prince of Peace (v. 14; Isa. 9:6). The word “peace,” or shalom in Hebrew, means well-being, flourishing, and wholeness. Whereas sin had made us enemies of God, Christ made possible peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Sin had broken human relationships, but Christ has made possible peace with others.
Peace is given to “those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). As we know from our month’s study, God’s “favor” or grace rests on those who trust in the name of His Son for salvation. This is the only way to please God. On our own, shalom is unattainable. That’s why Christ came, and that’s why He’ll come again. When He returns, the whole earth will enjoy shalom and worship Him alone (Isa. 9:1–10).
The shepherds modeled the best possible response to this good news (Luke 2:10–11): In faith, they heeded the angels’ message and went to find the baby (vv. 15–16). In faith, they told others about their amazing experience (vv. 17–18). In faith, they gave all the glory to God (v. 20).
Merry Christmas from all of us at Today in the Word! May the peace of Christ rest upon you. If you are craving a quiet moment, listen to the beautiful hymn, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Let Christ’s promise of peace fill your heart and your home as you enjoy worshiping Jesus on this day, His birthday.