In 1862, Charles Appleton Longfellow joined the Union ranks in America’s Civil War. Later that same year, on Christmas day, Charles’ father, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, sat down and penned “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!
Longfellow goes on to describe how the canon fire thundered and drown the church bells’ declarations of peace…
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 does He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail
With peace on Earth, good-will to men!
These verses ran through my head tonight as I hoisted my 34-weeks-pregnant frame into the bath.
Peace on Earth. Peace on Earth, good will to men, I sang and ran my fingertips over my globular belly.
In looking over this last year, I see now that I have been in pursuit of peace, which is foolish. Peace is just the sort of thing that settles on you once you have finally had the good sense to sit still for a minute—or have collapsed from sheer exhaustion. Peace alights. It doesn’t give chase or even own a pair of running shoes.
Peace on earth. Peace on earth, good will to men, I sing to my unborn son…A prayer and a declaration, if only for a moment.