God Is Not Dead

Friedrich Nietzsche first said that “God is dead” in the late 19th century. In 1966, Time magazine published an article chronicling the “death of God” theology of the 1960s. In the fifty years since, our culture has consistently lived out its belief that God is dead—not that He ever really lived, in their collective mind, but that His reality is not even worth debating anymore. For the Christless masses, God is dead because God is irrelevant. The Cross does no good, such people claim, because there is still evil in this world. The concept of “already but not yet” is lost on those who claim that “God is dead.”

The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow could have easily argued that “God is dead” because of the death of his wife Frances followed closely behind by the serious injury of his son on a Civil War battlefield. In his grief, though, Longfellow rose above his sorrows and penned the beloved hymn, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Longfellow wrote:

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.

I 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.

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."

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!

Though Longfellow could have lashed out at God and abandoned Christ, Longfellow rose above that to admit, “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.” As Spurgeon puts it, “When you cannot trace God’s hand, you can trust His heart.” This Christmas, may we remember that our Lord Jesus Christ, God born Man, still lives today. In our despair, when all we see is the earth’s hate, may we remember that “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

Below is Casting Crowns’ arrangement of this glorious, comforting hymn.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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