Summary: Based on an illustration about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a great sermon about going from hopelessness to hope because of Christmas.
PEACE ON EARTH
In July of 1836, Henry met Fanny.
Henry was still dealing with grief. His first wife, Mary, had died eight months earlier following the miscarriage of their first child. Henry was devastated and left the U.S. to plunge himself into his studies.
It was in Switzerland that he saw Fanny. Henry was smitten with her beauty and her culture. However, Fanny did not show any interest in Henry. But Henry was not easily deterred. Though he had to return to the US, he continued to court Fanny by mail. In 1937 he proposed marriage, but was rejected. Rejected and far away, Henry would not give up. He was determined to win Fanny's heart.
In July 1839, he wrote to a friend: "Victory hangs doubtful. The lady says she will not! I say she shall! It is not pride, but the madness of passion"
Lucky for Henry, Fanny moved back to Boston to live with her family. There Henry resumed his courtship in earnest. He would often walk to see her. He would cross the Boston Bridge. In fact, the story of Henry’s many courting trips across the bridge were so well known, that when the bridge was replaced, years later, it was named after Henry.
Henry’s many trips and “madness of passion” must have worn Fanny down because on July 13, 1843 Fanny married Henry. They had a storybook marriage that was blessed with six children. Henry and Fanny were seldom ever apart.
Fanny doted over her children. On July 9, 1861, Fanny recorded in her journal:
“We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight.”
The following day, in an attempt to help her girls stay cool, Fanny clipped their hair. After trimming some of seven year old Edith's beautiful curls, Fanny decided to preserve the clippings in an envelope. While she was melting a bar of sealing wax with a candle to seal the keepsake in the envelope, a few drops fell unnoticed in her lap. A breeze came through the window, igniting Fanny's dress - immediately wrapping her in flames.
In her attempt to protect Edith and Allegra, Fanny ran to Henry's study in the next room, where Henry frantically attempted to extinguish the flames with a throw rug. Failing to stop the fire with the rug, he tried to smother the flames by throwing his arms around Fanny. In the effort he severely burned his face, arms and hands. Henry would recover. But, alas, his wife's burns were fatal. The next day she slipped into a coma and died.
Too ill from his burns and grief, Henry did not attend her funeral. For three years, the man carried on at his trade... But his family could see the terrible effect of the grief that he had locked in his mind and soul.
He ceased to care for his appearance and let his beard grow long… mostly because the scars made shaving almost impossible.
The first Christmas after Fanny's death, he wrote in his journal, "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays."
The entry for the second Christmas, December 25, 1862 reads: "A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me."
The next year, Christmas of 1863, his journal was blank… his grief being so unbearable.
In December of 1864, Henry was sitting at his desk, trying to recapture the joy of the season ... the joy he saw in others.
These are the words he wrote ...
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.
Christmas can be a sad and lonely time for many people.
Those who are depressed when all the world is gay and jolly
Those who are lonely when the rest of the world is having family time
Those who are mourning when it seems that everyone else is celebrating
Those who are poor. . . . . . .when giving presents is the order of the day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was one of those people... Mourning, still mourning after three years.
There he sat in his office, missing his loved one, when he heard the carolers in the street. He heard the bells from the local church peeling out one of the favorite Christmas carols.
The first verse of the song tells us that he heard the words of the carols.
He did not sing with them. He did not feel cheered by them. But he heard them.
Somehow, despite his intense mourning and heartbreak, the carols still had a certain “sweetness.”