Following a discussion with a friend about God’s ability to use the deepest pain in our lives to bring forth fruit that nourishes others, I stumbled across another example in the story behind a popular Christmas carol.
This carol started as a poem by one of America’s favorite writers, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He penned the words to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” on December 25th, 1864. The poem ends with the words “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail; with peace on earth, goodwill to men.” However, it took Longfellow years to reach the point where he could honestly write about finding peace on earth.
In 1861, his journal entry for December 25th read, “”How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” Why such sad words? Months earlier, Longfellow had watched his wife burn to death as her dress caught on fire and he was unsuccessful in putting it out in time to save her. He himself suffered severe burns on his face, hands and arms. In fact, his characteristic beard was worn the rest of his life to cover the scars on his face. A year after her death, he wrote, “I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.”
In 1862, Christmas Day found these words in the poet’s journal, “’A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” Near the end of 1863, Longfellow received word that his oldest son, who had secretly run off to join the Union Army, had been shot and nearly killed in the Civil War – his journal had no entry on Christmas Day that year.
Finally, on December 25th, 1864, Longfellow sat down and in an honest recounting of his own suffering, and the lack of peace in our nation, sought to capture the Peace of Christmas. His concluding stanza contains these lyrics:
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!”
Bringing peace to our pain – another hope for Christmas. –Dave
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)
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