Quietly, Quietly: An Advent Reflection


Today is bone cold, gray, and still, which seems appropriate for the beginning of Advent. As I was headed for a walk in the woods, I was listening to a haunting rendition of Longfellow’s “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” by Beta Radio. It’s been one of those Christmas songs I’ve least connected with, for whatever reason. But Beta Radio’s melancholy twist resonated with me this morning, under the gray skies…

Then in despair I hung my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and marks the song
Of “peace on earth, goodwill to men”

That’s the world we live in today, that’s the world Longfellow wrote his poem in during the Civil War, and that’s the world God’s people waited in at the time of Jesus’ birth. Waiting for what? Peace.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor does He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.

But how? Christ has come, but the world is wicked still. I cannot seem to see good under these gray skies. I cannot seem to find peace on this stone-cold earth.

Perhaps it is because I am not still. Perhaps it is because I do not listen closely enough. I suppose that’s the whole point of this season, this waiting, this sitting in silence, the seeing in the unexpected, the listening for His coming:

You could’ve come like a mighty storm
with all the strength of a hurricane
You could’ve come like a forest fire
with the power of heaven in your flame                 
But you came like a winter snow
quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
to the earth below
-“Winter Snow” by Audrey Assad

Perhaps this is how he calls us to be. Perhaps this is how the kingdom comes, has always been coming, will come. In the stillness, the quietness, the steady faithfulness.

Suppose we did our work
like the snow, quietly, quietly.
leaving nothing out.

-Wendell Berry


Chris currently teaches writing and literature to community college students in Massachusetts. He is the author of six books of poetry, and can probably be found reading a book, drinking chai, and wearing flannel. In 2018 he and his wife Jen co-founded The Poetry Pub, an online community for poets. He enjoys walking in the woods, hanging out in coffee shops, and poking around used bookstores.


  1. Matthew Benefiel

    I like Sleeping at Last cover of it was well. Interesting that the verse that talks of thundering cannons is left out of the song. It doesn’t really fit in our day and age but it provides a lot of context for the original poem.

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