Did you know that Ti Ro-Ro died?, my son asked me earlier today. No!, I said, astonished. Stanley Pierre-Louis had grown up in our church and was a regular playmate of John and Gabe’s when they were little. He was the same age as John. As is common with most Haitians, he had a nickname. Everyone called him Ti Ro-Ro. Yeah, they said it was something to do with his lungs, he replied. How very tragic, I thought – especially now during the Christmas season. Soeur Rolex is mourning the loss of her son. (Madame Rolex has been in our church for years.) Then my thoughts turned to others who are bearing the burden of a joyLESS Christmas because their loved one just recently passed on. I thought of others still who are close to me – still trapped in the same deep, murky waters of grief.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most beloved poets in American history, poured out his own sorrow in the familiar Christmas carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. It has been read, sung, and translated into several languages throughout the years – largely because it struck a nerve that many of us feel at one point or another in our lives. Like so many other rich hymns and carols from the past, this too was birthed in sorrow as the author wrestled to understand just where God WAS in the mix. Longfellow had suffered much in spite of his great success as a writer. He was devastated when his first wife, Mary, died after suffering a miscarriage. Many years later, his second wife, Fanny, died as a result of a horrible tragedy. This particular Christmas carol was penned after his son, Charles, returned home from the Civil War severely wounded. Longfellow penned what anyone who has ever faced tragedy has most likely thought in the midst of their circumstances. Yet, these last two verses change the entire tone of the poem. They are also my favorite. They show that good ultimately triumphs. Why? Because God sits enthroned.
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.”
One day, sorrow will give way to joy, despair will bow to hope and death will lose its grip on mankind. God sits enthroned. It is my deep desire that all of you have a joyFUL Christmas and lots of laughter this season. May you have memories that last a lifetime. But in the meantime, I ask you to take time to remember those who are not celebrating, but rather enduring the holidays. Pray for them. Reach out to them. Ask them what you can do for them. Better yet, just simply sit in silence with them and let them know that you are there if they need to talk or just want a shoulder to cry on. Your presence will be a reminder that God is not dead, nor doth he sleep and through his people, he brings His comfort.