In October, 1962, there was a 14 day standoff between both the Soviet Union and Cuba and the United States. The Soviets had been spotted constructing bases for ballistic nuclear missiles in Cuba. If the missiles had launched from these bases, they could strike anywhere in the continental United States. A confrontation was only averted when the bases and missiles were dismantled at the insistence of the President of the United States. During the standoff, however, neither side acted. If they had, there could very well have been mass nuclear destruction in all three countries.
During this standoff, composer and lyricist Noel Regney began struggling with severe depression and flashbacks from World War II. Regney had been drafted into the Nazi army where he was forced to serve until he escaped and joined a group of French Resistance fighters. He later moved to Manhattan where he worked in the music industry. One day, as he walked the streets of New York, he noticed mothers pushing their babies in strollers. This led him to think about a time when God had given men the opportunity for true peace. Regney went home and penned the lyrics to the song Do You Hear What I Hear? He took the lyrics to his wife, Gloria Shayne, who composed the melody and the musical accompaniment. The song was recorded that November, released in December, and sold 25 million copies during its first holiday season.
In a 1985 interview with the New York Times, Regney said, “I am amazed that people can think they know the song – and not know it is a prayer for peace. But we are bombarded by sound and our attention spans are so short that we now listen only to catchy beginnings.”
It’s quite possible that Do You Hear What I Hear? isn’t a Christmas song at all, but simply a song about peace clothed in Christmas symbolism. Some believe the star “with the tail as big as a kite” actually represents a missile with great exhaust. Others claim that the “child who shivers in the cold” is not one child but poor children everywhere (to whom we should bring silver and gold). Hmm… I don’t know.
Whatever you believe about the song, praying for peace is a good thing. God the Father is sometimes described as Jehovah Shalom, the God of peace and Jesus, in Isaiah 9:6 is called the Prince of Peace. This Christmas, may we all pray to the God of Peace for true peace to come to our cities, our countries, and our world.
Click here to hear Do You Hear What I Hear? performed by Bing Crosby.
*Photo courtesy of Diego PH and Unsplash