“I heard the bells on Christmas Day!”…Peace on Earth, Good Will to men!
by Judy Bushy
What do you think of when you remember Christmas as a child, a youth, and through the years?
My early Christmases were spent at the large two story home that my grandfather, Granville Ainsworth Hudson, had built over fifty years before as home for his new bride, my grandmother, Lena. There was plenty of space for five daughters, son, all the spouses and at least a dozen children for breakfast. No one could do anything until breakfast of oatmeal and cherries, was eaten together and the dishes all washed, except look at the beautifully lit tree, We’d first seen the tree that morning as the adults decorated late Christmas eve. After dishes, we opened presents and then my mother would gather us to leave for church. I’d put on a red choir robe for the junior children’s choir. The organ would play out the joyous music as the bells in the tower rang and we began the processional singing down the aisle.
It is such fun to see the joyous anticipation of children at this time of year. At a department store in Minneapolis while in High School— two Christmas seasons. It was especially fun when I got to help the elves make handmade candy canes that were given out by Santa Claus! Cleaning up the orange soda that was stuck everywhere from the tykes dropping them wasn’t as much fun, but it was so neat to see people thoughtfully buying gifts for the children in their lives!
After meeting my husband the week of high school graduation at seventeen, we were busy driving from Minneapolis to Bayfield, Wisconsin each Christmas Eve. After time with my family we drove 300 miles to Dan’s family on the shores of Lake Superior for Christmas morning. Usually there was a blizzard. It was always beautiful and we loved the snow. The years went by and we added pur little ones, and they kept growing up fast.
As they years went by I’d usually have first five or six and then ten or more children every day for daycare. We’d make something new, ornaments, gifts, wrapping paper and cards; projects of artwork and stories, songs and games each day in December.. That was always fun!
But sometimes this isn’t such a happy time of year. There was 1976, when my mother was in the hospital, mostly unconscious from before Thanksgiving to New Years eve.. We were grateful for the years the Lord had given us with her as she was expected to leave us six months after the diagnosis/ Instead, by the Lord’s mercy, was able to be present for four grandchildren thirteen years later.
I remember in 1990, crying for months solid. It is unbelievable how much tears a person has capacity to shed. Anytime “I’ll be home for Christmas” was sung or another program suggested families all being together, would bring on another cloudburst, since our oldest son had gone home to be with the Lord October 26th.
Even when it isn’t a time of great grief or sorrow, this time of year it just seems like there should be gatherings of friends and family, When that isn’t possible, missing them is hard. So sometimes this time of year isn’t the joy and excitement as it is at other stages of life.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written at a time of civil war and hardship, speak of the truth of the joy of the season. “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! Then from each black, accursed mouth the cannon thundered in the South,And with the sound the carols drowned,
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! It was as if an earthquake rent the hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn the households born of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed 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.”
With all the hate and war on the earth, lets remember the way of peace on earth, good will to men!