We have all experienced a tragic event, and its ripple effect impacts everyone in some form or fashion. Many are approaching Christmas with heavy hearts–and they’re in no mood to celebrate.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow seemed to be in a similar place when he wrote the carol known as I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. On Christmas Day in 1864, Longfellow received word that his son, a soldier in the Civil War, had been wounded. Just two years before, he lost his wife in a fire.
As he was grieving, he wrote words of hope to challenge his own despair. He called the poem Christmas Bells.
“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.’”
Longfellow had no idea that his words would be a comforting gift to so many who find themselves in grief and despair.
In the midst of tragedy, there is hope. People hit the pause button and examine their lives. Many will be moved to act in some way. Families who were moving at a fast pace and taking tomorrow for granted will hug each other tighter. They will choose to cherish their time together this Christmas. Perhaps some will try to restore broken relationships or have conversations they’ve put off for too long. Others will advocate for changes to enrich each of our lives.
It’s possible that in a loud, hectic, material and high-tech world, the greatest thing to give and receive this Christmas is something you can’t purchase or download. Maybe we need reminders that life is precious, and that we really do need each other.
Stop fretting over whether or not you have exactly the right gift under the tree. A lasting gift is a willingness to be in real, transparent, wholehearted relationships.
As you gather in the coming days with friends and family, don’t underestimate the power of making connections. Even with the inconveniences of planning holiday gatherings, quirky relatives and awkward moments, spending time with loved ones is important. For starters, it provides an irreplaceable type of connectedness for generations to remember.
Finally, when you give thanks at your family table, please remember that families who have suffered tremendous loss need your prayers.
And as Longfellow said, “…’the wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, good will to men.’”