Merry Christmas, 2006


I wish a Merry Christmas to all readers and friends. It would be a good thing to have.

There is plenty of room at the inns in Bethlehem today — the continuing violence hammers tourism in the city. The International Herald Tribune carries an Associated Press story on the dearth of tourists, which means many natives of the city continue to face dramatically reduced incomes.

BETHLEHEM, West Bank: Hundreds of people packed the Church of the Nativity on Monday to celebrate Christmas at Jesus’ traditional birthplace, but few foreign tourists were among the worshippers, putting a damper on the holiday cheer.

Nun lights candles at the Church of the Nativity, Christmas 2006

Houston Chronicle photo by Quique Kierzenbaum – Nun prays at the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem.

Indeed, Christianity may be dying in the town. (For a more detailed and closer look at events in Bethlehem, take a gander at Reclaiming Space’s “Christmas in Bethlehem.“)

Longfellow’s poem* written during the American Civil War, which most of us know from the carol it has become, is all the more poignant today.

Christmas Bells

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.”

Peace on Earth, please.

  • * Generally excluded are the fourth and fifth stanzas, which I include here for the sake of accuracy.

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