For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. ~Luke 2:11

Devastated by the death of his beloved wife Fanny in a fire in 1861, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow feared he would go insane, claiming he was “inwardly bleeding to death.” The first Christmas after Fanny's death, Longfellow wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” Two years after losing Fanny, Longfellow suffered at the news that his son Charles had been seriously wounded as a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac. Longfellow’s journal was silent on the Christmas of 1863. Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem Christmas Bells. Originally seven stanzas long, the poem was set to music and, typically shortened to four verses, is the well-known Christmas carol I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet the words repeat,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll’d along th’ unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bow’d 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.”

~Shyla Lefever