It’s Christmas time, and therefore Christmas music time. On a lark, I went to Grooveshark and pulled up about a dozen different renditions of the superb “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
Awful, all of them. Even Johnny Cash fell short. Elvis came the closest, but in the end, only Casting Crowns has gotten this one right. Any version of this song which qualifies as “easy listening” is an abomination, and sadly that seems to be how the carol has been performed up until very recently.
The poem Christmas Bells is decidedly not easy listening. It is written by a man who had watched his wife burn to death in front of him. It is about his son, who has been severely wounded far from home, and may never return. It is about the brutal enslavement of millions of human beings. It is about the worst war in the country’s history, pitting brother against brother and tearing a still-new nation apart. It is about defiantly declaring “Peace on Earth” despite all of this.
It is about Christmas.
Christ did not come to offer an easy, flowery peace. He came to die. Christmas is the story of an invasion into enemy territory. Christ offers the peace of a good fight fought to the death, long past any hope of success, and yet won all the same. It absurdly declares “peace on earth” as innocents are slaughtered, just as the bells madly declared “peace” when the country was hopeless divided in civil war.
God is not dead, nor does He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!