Peace on earth, good-will to men

By: American Decency Staff

Christmas is special to a lot of people, whether it's because of the true Reason for the season or because of the presents, or the cheesy Christmas movies, or the weather, or just  because the whole family is together. For all of those reasons, the Johnson family Christmas is without a doubt one of my favorite days of the year.

We are blessed as a family to enjoy each others' company more than some during the Holiday season. Our family gets along great and there are several decent cooks, which makes the day all the more enjoyable. We don't have a whole lot of real Christmas traditions, but one of them, I think, is worth sharing – particularly this year.

With all my siblings and our families sitting on the couches or cross-legged on the floor, the younger kids are antsy, of course, intent on the bright and shiny wrapping papers reflecting the lights from the Christmas tree.

I picked out my parents' tree as I have every year since I could drive the truck to pick it up and, as usual, I've been scolded because it's too fat. The angel tree topper sits atop the fat tree with her mouth agape, presumably singing praises for the New Born King. I've always told my mom that this particular angel is rather ugly, but it takes its place on its green stage every year perhaps, now, a little out of spite.

My mom pulls out an old red book, which, as she explains, holds my grandpa's favorite poem. It's not an obscure, self-affected piece, because he wasn't that kind of person. He was what they call a "simple" farmer and his favorite poem is the classic written by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,  I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

Longfellow wrote it upon hearing that his son was severely wounded in the Civil War, but the words have never been more applicable than in the light of the Newtown Massacre.

 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!

    Then from each black, accursed mouth 
    The cannon thundered in the South, 
        And with the sound 
        The carols drowned 
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent 
    The hearth-stones of a continent, 
        And made forlorn 
        The households born 
    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."

IN CS Lewis' space trilogy, he imagines going to another planet with life created by God, but these beings were not fallen, like man is. In Lewis' imagination these beings were in perfect communion with God. They had no concept of, or even a word for, "evil" or "bad." The closest that they could get was "bent."

We live in a "bent" world. It was once perfect, but is now deformed and deeply flawed thanks to sin. It is not as it was made to be. Man was not made to shoot children, but to protect them, and that's why the shooting in Connecticut grabs our hearts and squeezes like it's wringing out a dish cloth.

The Wall Street Journal published profiles of the victims of the shooting, including comments of neighbors and friends who knew the kids. What slashes the emotions is reading these commenters saying, "she had a strong personality" or  he "was such an incredible light."

Was? Had? We should not have to talk about kids this way. Parents are not meant to bury their children.

In Longfellow's time, the Civil War took the lives of 750,000 Americans on both sides in a war.

In my grandfather's time, two world wars where 36 million people were killed, plus 6 million Jews in the holocaust.

We've had  wars and genocides and school shootings since then.

And this week, 20 six-and-seven- year-old kids and six adults will be put in the ground.

Humans are bent.

There's only One who can straighten us out and that's what we celebrate next week – the Birth of the One who has come to unbend us and make us perfect as we were meant to be.

The Reason for the season should be especially poignant this year. Hug your family a little tighter this year, enjoy your time with the ones you love, and praise God for sending His Son to unbend us.

Someday, we are promised, "the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men."


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