Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shady Hook to New Hope


With the tragedy of the massacre of Newtown, Connecticut, in mind, there won’t be a Christmas, for the families of Shady Hook Elementary School.  I was reminded of the personal tragedy of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 
Longfellow’s wife was killed in a fire.  While still grieving, his son joined the army, against his wishes.  This is during the Civil War.  Charles Appleton Longfellow was killed in the Battle of New Hope Church, in Virginia.  Needless to say, Longfellow was distraught.  Neither his wife’s death, nor his son’s, had given him the chance to say good-bye.  His wife’s was an unforeseen accident; and his son left without his blessing.
It was no wonder that when the poet heard the bells on Christmas day, he wrote this poem.   

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 the earth, good-will to men."

I wish I had the skill to craft a poem like “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  Instead, I’m going to do away with Santa, reindeer, elves, snowmen, and other examples of our modern-day commercialism.  I’m going to celebrate what’s important: our faith in the Christ Child, family, tradition, and communal love.  People are important, not things.  As the poet wrote:

"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on the earth, good-will to men."