By Faith McDonnell
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!”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote those words in his poem, “Christmas Bells” in 1863 in the midst of the tragedy of the American Civil War and the personal tragedy of the death of his beloved wife, Fanny. Though he was tempted to despair, the pealing of the Christmas bells was a reminder to the poet that right would prevail. They were Christmas Bells, a reminder of the birth of a Savior who came to earth, incarnation of God as man – or rather, as helpless Baby in a manger — in order to give His life and reconcile the world to God.
The same hatred and evil that grieved Longfellow in the wreckage of the Civil War prowls the earth today. We have been painfully and shockingly reminded of that just a few days ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It is easy this Christmas in the face of such evil – whether here in America or in northern Nigeria, Sudan, North Korea, or elsewhere – to give in to despair over the state of a world still full of conflict, a world in which hate is strong. But just as with the Christmas bells of long ago, today there are reminders that God is at work in the world and that “wrong” – so prevalent and so perverse — ultimately shall fail.
Those reminders come to me through a young father who just lost his beautiful little girl, the love of his life, but was able to express compassion and forgiveness to the family of her killer. Robert Parker, the father of 6-year-old Emilie, offered his “deepest condolences” to all the families affected by the tragedy in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012. He told them that they were in his heart and his prayers…including the family of the man who killed his little girl. “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you,” he said, with tears streaming down his face. A Christmas bell peals loudly that God is not dead.
Those reminders also come to me through the passionate and energetic alliance of activists in Act for Sudan. This is a group of people who love the people of Sudan – some that they know, most that they do not know and never will know. They desire to see peace and justice come for every sector of the nation, and they work tirelessly towards that end. A Christmas bell peals loudly that God is not asleep.
People of mercy and compassion like Mr. Parker, people of justice and passion like Act for Sudan, they are evidence that God is at work in the world. Whether or not all of them know it themselves, God has made them His witnesses, His brokenhearted but hope-filled witnesses to the world. Wrong shall fail, and right shall prevail in the very end. And in the waiting, we can hold onto each other with compassion, and help one another with passion that enables us to endure.
May God bless you this Christmas with the hope that comes with the birth of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ – the incarnation of God’s love.