The last two weeks of October 1962 saw the United States and the Soviet Union embroiled in a verbal conflict which was dangerously close to an all-out nuclear war. The Soviet Union had placed missiles on the small island of Cuba, just ninety miles from the United States. These missiles were capable of striking most of our continent. Historians dubbed this escalating tension the “Cuban Missile Crisis.”
A man named Noel Regney was walking the streets of Manhattan one day, thinking about that situation, and worried about what it might mean for his country. A World War II veteran, Noel knew what it was like to face this kind of fear, and he was terrified. Born in France, he had studied music at Strasbourg Conservatory. But when Hitler’s troops invaded France, Noel was forcibly drafted into the German army. He personally witnessed war and watched many men die. He was shot and received minor injuries, and soon deserted the German army and lived with the French underground until the war ended.
Noel immigrated to the United States in 1952 and was soon conducting music for many early TV shows and wrote commercial jingles for radio. A record producer had asked him to write a Christmas song but he had refused, saying that Christmas had become too commercialized and he didn’t want to add anything to the problem. But as he walked home that day, he noticed two mothers pushing their babies in strollers down the street. He watched as the two babies smiled at each other, and his mood changed. He began to think about babies and lambs, and by the time he made it home, he had written the lyrics of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” in his head.
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” became a Christmas classic, and has been recorded by Perry Como, Robert Goulet, Susan Boyle and Andy Williams and many others in more than 120 versions. Bing Crosby’s version alone has sold more than one million copies.
But considering the events which were current in Noel’s time, and considering the extreme danger the U.S. was in at the time, the words “Listen to what I say, pray for peace, people everywhere” seem to have special importance. It was a plea that everyone everywhere should pray for peace.
No less should that be our prayer in 2015. The message of Christmas has many facets: love, forgiveness, reconciliation, home, family, etc. One very important aspect of Christmas is peace.
But we should understand that the kind of peace our world needs today cannot be found in a treaty, military might or even at the ballot box. It can only be found at the altar. Unless we have peace with God we can never have peace with men. Let us kneel in worship before the Prince of Peace this year, and “pray for peace, people everywhere.”
–Rocky Henriques, www.uticabc.com