96 Hours Until …
Four days. 96 hours. Much can happen in an itty bitty time span like that.
Our cats could finally go to the mattresses (you’re welcome, Brian, for the Godfather reference) once and for all in some sort of Feline Gladiator Ring.
Our dogs, who are currently Barking At Nothing, could finally learn to differentiate between the threat level of (a) a Masked Man Wielding a Machete and a Blowtorch While Charging Our Front Door and (b) a squirrel with the IQ of a gnat (is that redundant?) racing up and down the same tree in the far corner of a neighbor’s yard for no reason at all. [Maybe I have it wrong, though. Maybe the dogs aren’t trying to protect us from Señor Squirrel, Neighborhood Menace, but instead are trying, with brains of equal IQ to the squirrel (and the gnat?!), to encourage the little rodent: ‘Go up! No, now go down! Now back up! You can do it, little fella!’ and if I only actually spoke Dog, I’d hear all that instead of: ‘WOOF! WOOF! WOOOOOOOOOFFFFF!!!!!!!!! WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOOOOOOOOFFFFFFFFF!!!!!!!!!!’]
Another something that can happen in 96 hours? Vastly more likely than the dogs figuring out the machete vs. squirrel conundrum: the magic of Christmas.
Yes, I know it’s only September, but in four short days, which will be exactly three months before Christmas, my Christmas album will go to the manufacturer, complete with pictures and graphics and liner notes and the most stunning arrangements of traditional Christmas hymns and carols you’ve ever heard. Seriously, I am in awe all. the. time. that I get to work with such remarkably talented people.
There are 15 tracks on the album, and the musicians, arrangers, and producers left nothing on the table in their creation of this greatness. Most of the tracks most of you will know. Some of you will even know all 15 of them. I hope you will hear all of them on the album and know them all by heart before this Christmas.
But it’s the back story of one of the tracks I want to share with you today. It’s heart-rending and powerful and worth knowing. It’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and were it not for the wisdom of my beloved producer, John Coates, I might never have recorded this stunning song. The summary that will go in the cd jacket is here for you. Enjoy and be in awe, not merely of the story behind the song but also of the One who redeemed the man who lived the story. He is ready to do the same for us all.
“I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day”
At the outset of the Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s beloved wife, Fanny, with whom he had five children, met with tragedy. She had been melting sealing wax to preserve a locket of her daughter’s curls after a hair trimming, and some drops of hot wax fell unnoticed on her dress. At that moment, a strong sea breeze blew through the open window, and Fanny’s dress caught ablaze, wrapping her immediately in flames. She ran out of the room to protect her daughters, and Henry saw her. He couldn’t find anything large enough or suitable to extinguish the fire that was consuming his wife, and so he threw his arms around her, hoping to extinguish the flames with his own body, severely burning his face, arms, and hands. His beloved Fanny succumbed to her injuries from the fire the next morning.
Fanny’s death, the fact that Longfellow’s beloved nation was at war with itself, and the fact that the Longfellows’ oldest son, Charles, was off fighting in that war, not to mention the effects of his own burns, put Henry in such a grief that he did not attend Fanny’s funeral and in fact had such a general hollowness and despair that he could not acknowledge anything good about Christmas or any other holiday for the next couple of years. When his son, Charles, was then severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and harming his spine, Longfellow sunk even deeper, to the point of wondering / praying that God would one day grant him peace. | God did indeed grant Longfellow peace of spirit. The spiritual and emotional fog of Longfellow’s turmoil lifted: Lincoln was re-elected, it began to look as if the war would, in fact, end, and his treasured son, Charles, did not die from his wounds. On Christmas Day 1864, Longfellow penned the words that became the last two stanzas of this beloved hymn, perhaps all the more beloved upon knowing the story behind it?
Listen to the words some time when you can concentrate, and rejoice with Longfellow the truth he discovered as he penned the words: “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!”