The summer was hot, so Fanny decided to trim their daughter's hair while her husband napped. She saved the trimmings in a sealed envelope. In those days, envelops were sealed with hot wax, and as Fanny lit flame to melt the wax, a breeze set her dress on fire.
Fanny ran into her husband's study for help. Awakened from his nap, Henry threw a rug over Fanny to try to smother the flames. But the rug was too small, so he threw himself over her and stifled the flames with his own body as best he could. Fanny died the next morning, and Henry was so badly burned he was unable to attend her funeral.
The first Christmas after her death, he wrote in his journal, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.”
The next Christmas, his 1862 journal entry was, “‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”
On Christmas Day in 1863, Longfellow wrote nothing at all.
But on December 25, 1864, he wrote his poem “Christmas Bells.”
It begins with an observation which appears to be cheerful:
I heard the bells on Christmas DayBut Longfellow is not cheerful, as he goes on to explain:
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;Yep. True. Hate is strong, and it does mock the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men. But the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men was not written by men. It was written by God Himself.
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”
Hate is strong, but God’s love is stronger. Wherever evil attempts to flourish, God pours out grace and mercy in greater measure. Satan loses every battle he fights.
This Longfellow knew:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:Most people agree that 2016 was difficult in one way or another. But God’s bells still peal out love and mercy and grace and joy and peace. Indeed, God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men!”
“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save; He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing… of peace on earth, goodwill to men” (Zephaniah 3:17, Luke 2:14b).Peace on earth, goodwill to you.