anne mikolay 2012 120Christmas joy is timeless; so also is Christmas sorrow. For the grieving, the troubled, the bereft, the season enhances the void hidden in their hearts. Life affirming reawakenings are the stuff of Dickens; such miracles are few and far between. The sad truth in Christmas is that real life does not yield to the season. We do not live in a Hallmark movie. These are troubled times.

It was no different for those who came before us. For example, American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow struggled with Christmas during a time of personal pain and societal upheaval. In July 1861, Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, was fatally injured when her dress caught fire. Longfellow, too, suffered burns in his efforts to save her. In 1863, Longfellow’s 18 year old son, Charles, enlisted in the Union Army without his father’s knowledge. Not long afterward, Charles was seriously wounded in Virginia. Sensing hypocrisy in a season that preached good will toward men while citizens turned on one another, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned “Christmas Bells”, a classic that is equally applicable today in our divided, troubled nation.

“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!

Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

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.”

While season’s greetings and pretty words do not lessen the sadness inherent in Christmas, please keep Longfellow’s words in mind: God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.” That, too, is the truth in Christmas.

May you have a blessed holiday and find whatever brings peace to your heart.