In 1861 Henry W. Longfellow become a widow when a tragic fire killed his wife, two years later, his eldest son was severely wounded fighting in the Civil War. On Christmas Day, 1863, while suffering through these trials, he composed a poem. Composer Jean Baptiste Calkin later (1872) added the music that is most commonly used with Longfellow’s now famous words. While Calkin’s music was the first, there are several other arrangements by different composers. Echoes of Longfellow’s despondence and frustration with the war are clear, as is the message of hope, and promise of “peace and good will towards men”. Johnny Marks’ arrangement in 1956, and Bing Crosby’s recording, is most likely responsible for the widespread transition of a poem, turned, hymn, into a widely known Christmas Carol.
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They lyrics of this poem turned hymn, share the pain and tragedy or life while also giving hope for the future. For many people 2020 has been a year marked with pain and struggle. There has been sickness and death, political unrest, and struggles of all kinds. In some ways this all feels like more struggle than normal, but most years have their share of struggles. I love that this poem doesn’t deny the pain and struggle, but does remind us that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”
This song is a great reminder that no matter what else is going on in your life, God is still at work. No matter if things seem dark and sad, there is still hope. I think this is a great opportunity to talk to your children about those for whom Christmas might be a struggle and how we can help show them the light and hope of His promises. After we study the hymn, I plan to have my children think of ways that they can bring hope to those that are struggling this year.
For example, we might send cards or do video chats with folks that are at home and unable to get out. We might drop off cookies or treats to a widow or single mom that could use a sweet surprise. In addition to those, maybe there is a single person whom you could invite to join your family for the holiday meal or if you can’t be there in person maybe you could plan to eat together virtually. There are so many ways that we can bring the hope of Christmas to those that are struggling.
We are really excited about the beautiful chalk pastel painting that Nana created to go with this hymn. The painting is absolutely beautiful, but also simple enough for even younger children to participate. The fun snow scene was a lot of fun for my children to draw. As always, her hymn studies are included in the You Are An Artist Clubhouse Membership. If you are already a member you can click here to access the lesson. They also have a special post on turning this hymn and art lesson into a special tea time!
I have included copy work pages and a hymn informational worksheet at the bottom that your children can do as they work on learning the words and more about the hymn. There are so many beautiful versions of this song performed in a variety of styles. I am excited to share a few of them in the list below. My daughter is also working hard on learning to perform this on her violin and I hope to be able to link to that video soon.
May this song bless you during this Christmas season, remind you that there is hope even in darkness, and inspire you to bring God’s light to this dark world.
Resources and Downloads:
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (background story)
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (lyrics and information)
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Casting Crowns)
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Frank Sinatra)
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Johnny Cash)
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Harry Belfonte)
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Acapella)
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Steven Curtis Chapman)
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (instrumental jazz)
Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure
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Deals and Freebies
This week instead of posting my normal list at the end of a post, I did a separate post because of all the great deals going on for Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Thanksgiving/ Black Friday 2020 Deals and Sales