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Christmas Bells

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”1

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem “Christmas Bells” in 1863 during an extremely difficult time in his life. His wife, Frances, had died in a horrible accident in 1861. She had been sealing envelopes with hot wax when a flame caught her clothes on fire. Longfellow was badly burned while trying to put out the flames. Unfortunately, his wife died, and he was unable to attend the funeral due to the burns he had incurred.

Longfellow was once again faced with grief in 1863 when his son, Charley, chose to enlist and fight in the Civil War even when his father was opposed to the idea. A few months later, Charley was shot in battle, and the bullet had nicked his spine. Longfellow went to pick his son up from the hospital in Washington and they arrived home on December 8. Longfellow began the process of helping his son recover from his injuries. This was the backstory when he wrote the words to “Christmas Bells”. He’d suffered loss and grief, but had been comforted when he heard the church bells ringing on Christmas day. His poem was set to music in 1872, and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is still a song of hope and comfort for people today.

This season can bring many “firsts” for some people. Perhaps it was the first Christmas after the death of a loved one, or the first Christmas after a divorce. Perhaps it was the first Christmas they spent in bed due to illness, or perhaps they missed Christmas with their families because of work responsibilities. In the midst of all the “holiday cheer” let us not overlook those who may be feeling lonely, depressed, and struggling with the reality of their “first Christmas”.

Who do you know who may be struggling this Christmas season. Perhaps they pretend all is well, but inside they are fighting to stay afloat. May God lead us to these people and may we be a source of comfort and hope for them, just as the church bells were for Henry Longfellow that Christmas day.

Suggested prayer: Dear God, thank you for the peace I have in you. Use me to be a source of Your peace, comfort, and joy to others who may be struggling this season. Help me be aware and not overlook those who need Your hope. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.

  1. John 16:33.


Today’s Encounter was written by: Crystal B.

All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.