Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Past

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:1-4

Far to the north in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reflected on the day, and Christmas days past. The season had held no joy for him for the past three years — not because of the war, but the tragic death of his wife Fanny in the summer of 1861. She was the love of his life, and they were splendidly happy, but on July 9, 1861, while sealing a letter with paraffin, Fanny dropped the match on her summer dress, which burst into flames. Henry heard her screams and ran to her, trying to help smother the fire and burning himself severely in the process. Fanny died the next day. In December 1862, Henry noted in his journal, "A Merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more from me." He spent December 1863 helping nurse his son's wounds; Lt. Charles Appleton Longfellow, who had run away to fight for the Union, was severely wounded at the battle of New Hope Church, Virginia, and Henry had rushed south to bring him home. The following spring, Longfellow's lifelong friend Nathaniel Hawthorne passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. These had been difficult times for the poet; but sometimes it is only through great adversity that the promise of hope makes itself felt most strongly. Longfellow began to write:
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.’

I thought how as that day had come
 The belfries of all Christendom 
Had rolled along th' unbroken song
 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.”

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. 
The poem was put to music by Jean Baptiste Calkin in 1872, and became the familiar carol "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
 by James S. Robinson; Free Republic Browse
Thought:
It appeared for a time that Longfellow, in his heartache, had lost hope. Christmas was not joyful nor peaceful for him and the promise of hope had diminished. The inspiration of this Christmas song assures us that through this time of great despair he did find serenity, tranquility, and solace.  
The Civil War brought wounds to the heart and minds of the American people and they needed hope to prevail in this long journey. In his plight for peace and joy, Longfellow, penned these words that touched the heart of a war torn nation giving them hope in God. 

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. 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.

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