Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Do You Hear The Bells?

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His wife was fatally burned in the library of their home in Cambridge, Mass.

He had run to help his wife---the love of his life, and extinguish the fire, but in his failed attempt had himself been severely burned on his face and neck, resulting in his not being able to shave his face, thus the famous beard.

Frances Appelton Longfellow died the following day, July 10, 1861.

The first Christmas after her death, Longfellow wrote in his journal, "How inexpressively sad are all holidays."

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."

A December 25, 1862 entry in his journal reads, "A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me."

Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his son, Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades, resulting in the loss of one of his spinal processes. His son, however, would not die from his wound.

Nothing was entered in Longfellow's journal on Christmas, 1863. Nothing. Silence.

Then his prayer was answered. God would, indeed, give him peace someday. And the expression of that day came on Christmas day, December 25, 1864. On that day he wrote the poem, "Christmas Bells," that we know as the carol, "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day." John Baptiste Calkin wrote the music in 1872, with very little edit to Longfellow's original words, and the carol was published.

Longfellow's Christmas Bells loudly proclaimed his passion, his hope, his personal restoration and the redemption that comes only through the message of Christmas---the birth of Christ, the Savior of the world.

His bells rang out, "God is not dead," "Nor doth He sleep."

Longfellow, deeply concerned over the political issues of his day---particularly slavery, saw hope in the election of Abraham Lincoln---he saw an end to the deadly war that pitted brother against brother and family against family.

His Christmas Bells rang out the truth, and he wrote, "The wrong shall fail, the right prevail," and in closing, his own personal recognition that peace had come to his own heart, "of peace on Earth, good will toward men."

Following are the lyrics to the carol "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day." May you hear the bells as they proclaim redemption, restoration, forgiveness, new life, vision, purpose and blessing to you and yours.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

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 thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of 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.

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.”

Gary Randall
Faith and Freedom

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