Here’s the third in the repeat of my Sunday series during the month of December of the fascinating abolitionist history behind some of our most beloved Christmas hymns. Pro-lifers identify closely with those 150 years ago who fought to free another oppressed class of people. Last week I posted the story behind “O Holy Night,” and the week before, “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” This week…

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

In December 1863 poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was still grieving the death by fire of his wife Francis 2 years before when receiving word their oldest son Charles had been seriously injured as a Union soldier in the Civil War.

A fierce abolitionist, Longfellow awakened in despair that Christmas morning, unsure of both the fate of his son and his country. It was against this backdrop Longfellow wrote the melancholy poem “Christmas Bells” when hearing church bells peel throughout Boston proclaiming the birth of Christ. Two of the middle verses were later dropped to adapt the poem into a Christmas carol, which composer John Caulkin set to music. Those 2 verses give the current verse 3 (the last verse below) much more context: