Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

How Does Hope Dispel the Darkness of Grief?

            We are two days away from Christmas Eve, so I thought that it might be a promising idea to share some Christmas stories. “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is “a powerful song of hope” according to Philip Reynolds. This song was written at a dark time in our nation and in the life of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

            America was two years into the Civil War. Union forces had “won significant victories” at Washington, D.C., Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. However, the war continued despite being winter. The year “1863 saw the bloodiest battles of the Civil War – Gettysburg as well as the Battle of Chickamuga. They alone cost a cumulative total of over 85,000 casualties.”

            Thousands of families were grieving over the loss of loved ones to the war. Longfellow was one of them, except his initial loss was his wife. The death of Longfellow’s second wife Frances in 1861 was unrelated to the war. She was sealing “envelopes with hot wax and an open flame” when her dress caught fire. He gave his best efforts in trying to save her, but she died from her burns. He “collapsed into a depression. His journal entry for Christmas 1862 shows the depth of his suffering: “A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

            The war continued in 1863, and Longfellow’s son Charley defied his father’s wishes to join the Union army. Charley became sick with fever in June 1863. Longfellow traveled to a hospital in Washington to take Charley home to Massachusetts. When Charlie recovered, he “returned to the fighting.” In November 1863, Charley was shot “in the back while fighting at New Hope, Virginia,” and Longfellow traveled to Washington once again to retrieve him. In the midst of his grief at Christmas 1863, Longfellow wrote the Christmas hymn titled “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Here are a few stanzas from the hymn.

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!

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.

            Americans and people worldwide are grieving this Christmas season. However, Longfellow’s words contain the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God is not dead, and He does not sleep. In the end, Right will prevail. This truth is the foundation for faith in Jesus Christ, which brings hope. This is the Christmas message. The Babe of Bethlehem would be just another baby if He had not completed His mission to atone for the sins of mankind.

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