There once was a man named Henry. Henry loved to write, had a wife named Fanny that he loved dearly, and six children of whom he was proud. Life was giving, and there was joy and happiness in their home. But as we know, life can also bring sorrow. On July 9,1861, Henry woke from a nap to Fanny’s dress engulfed in flames. He desperately tried to extinguish the flames first with a rug and then his own body, but the damage was to much for her. She died the next morning, and Henry was left without his lovely wife, and burns so terrible on himself, he could not attend her funeral. He had to grow a beard to cover his burns, and his grief was so terrible that he was afraid of being sent to an asylum. So now here is Henry, without a wife, and left to raise his six children...alone.

Less than two years later, the oldest of the six, Charles (or Charley as he was called), decides he is going to join Abraham Lincoln’s Union Army to fight in the Civil War. He leaves, without telling the family. Charley impressed his fellow soldiers and leaders with his skills and soon became a Second Lieutenant. He participated in the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia, but became ill with typhoid fever and was sent home. He was able to rejoin once he had recovered.

Early December, 1863, Henry received a telegram saying Charley had been severely wounded. He and his young son Ernest left and arrived there on December 3rd. Things did not look good for young Charley. The army surgeon was very concerned paralysis might ensue.

On Christmas day of 1863, Henry wrote a poem. He quieted his heart and listened. And what he heard were bells, Christmas bells. And he heard singing, the words “peace on earth”. The reality of death, disease, and turmoil as being in a country that was at war with itself, were a very real pain for this man. And these are the words of his poem that 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! 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. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow remembered that God is alive, he is not dead, and has triumphed."

Are you despairing this Christmas? Does it feel like there is no hope, no joy to be had? Then you must also remember as Henry did, and praise the Lord, for our HOPE is in Jesus, our FUTURE is with Jesus, and this life is only temporary. We were told by Jesus that we would have troubles, John 16:33: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Jesus is hope! He is the light in the darkness.

Isaiah 9:2,6 “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of darkness, on them has light shone. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Merry Christmas my friends! What a gift we have been given.

Sarah J.