“Most people naturally think about Silent Night on Christmas, but I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day may be an even better fit.” This suggestion was given by the author, Jayson Bradley. He tells us that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this poem about the Civil War, but it rings true to our day as well. If we draw on some of the lyrics of this song we will understand better why he says this.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day; their old familiar carols play.
The words repeat of peace on earth, goodwill to all.
As the day has come, the bells of all Christendom roll away the unbroken song of peace on earth, goodwill to all.
I bowed my head; there is no peace on earth for hate is strong and masks the song of peace on earth goodwill to all.
Then pealed the bell loud and deep. God is not dead, nor does he sleep.
Wrong shall fail, right prevail with peace on earth, goodwill to all.
Through the Incarnation God is intimately involved with us and in our world. God entered human existence as an infant on the first Christmas to begin his great work of healing the world’s brokenness. Jesus willingly gave up his rights and privileges as God in order to enter our world. Longfellow was right! God is not absent. The right will prevail — the wrong shall fail and we have a child born in a stable in Bethlehem to thank for this. We’re reminded as we hear this song every Christmas that once, as an infant lying in the manger, Jesus became the hope for the future. Because of Christmas we know that God is at work in the world reconciling all to himself. We, then, are encouraged during this beautiful season to participate in that work in the world becoming, as Jesus, servants who minister to others and bring love and “goodwill” to all.
But just what is this goodwill we sing about especially at Christmas? Authors have explained it in different ways. Jennifer Miller, a Catholic author, defines it as a “constant disposition of a person who is determined more than anything to love God and who does not wish to consciously refuse anything to God.” She goes on to say that it is “an act of the heart which permits the grace of God to carry us, little by little, toward God.” Pope St. John XXIII explained goodwill as a “gift wherein we receive peace of heart given in proportion to our acceptance and our response to God.” However, he also cautions us that this gift of peace “…comes only with our cooperation and work…” and that it is our serious responsibility to strive to bring it about and share it with others. So, that is our task as we look to 2021. To help us in this effort we are reminded every time we pray the Gloria at Mass we call ourselves “people of goodwill” – people offering God the highest glory both in heaven and on earth and renewing our commitment to be examples of goodwill to all.
Merry Christmas and God’s blessings in the New Year , People of Goodwill !!