Through the hustle and bustle… Christmas time is near.
So very near, I am hearing the bells.
Along time ago, a well know poet also heard the bells.
Though a professor at Harvard, noted writer, well-known and respected in literary and political circles, he was a broken man.
A man who shunned the holidays in grief after suffering the tragic loss of his wife, taken in the prime of her life in a most horrific fire.
An abolitionist and pacificist, he finds shortly after the death of his wife that his eldest son had run off to pursue his dream. A dream of fighting in the war.
And on a Christmas just two years later, he learns his eldest son had been severely wounded in that war, suffering perhaps life altering injuries.
The first Christmas after his wife’s death he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” A year after the incident he wrote, “I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.” His journal entry for December 1862 reads, “‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”
I’m writing, of course, of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). One of America’s most beloved poets, known especially for his Christmas poetry.
Yet amidst his tragedy and loneliness, Christmas came once again.
In 1864, walking home from midnight services on Christmas Eve, something miraculous happened.
He heard the bells.
And was moved.
And for the first time in years was able to put pen to paper and write words we love so dear…
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 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.”
Perhaps only through personal loss and tragedy was he able to hear the bells that Christmas of 1864.
And write words that would become our “familiar carol,” enduring 152 years to date.
Can you hear the bells?
Their old familiar carols sing?
Or has life somehow distracted you from their ringing?
My wish for you this Christmas is that you will hear the bells, that the wrong shall fail and the right prevail… that you will always know that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”
Enjoy this day… and hug your loved ones’ extra tight —
Have a beautiful and wondrous Christmas!