Christmas, a Historical and Religious tradition observed from the smallest villages and towns, to the largest metropolitan cities, rural to urban, North, South, East, West, London to Paris, to Moscow, the Middle East, to the Far East, there is a recognition by millions of a sacred event that occurred in the Holy Land, in the town of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.
We embrace the mystery and the awe of the shepherds in the field, a guiding star in the sky, an infant in a manger, and the glory of peace on earth, good will to men.
From the writings of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who in the depths of sorrow from losing his wife from a fire, she was using a candle to make a wax seal. A breeze sent sparks onto her dress and she was engulfed in flames. Mr. Longfellow, tried to extinguish the flames using a rug and his own body, the burns so severe, she died the next day, July 10, 1861. He was so injured from the fire that he could not attend her funeral and his face so disfigured from burns sustained, he grew a beard to cover the external scars, but the internal sadness lay open and not as easily covered.
Then two years later, Mr. Longfellow received a telegram on December 1, 1863, his oldest son, Charley, who initially, without his father’s knowledge enlisted in the Army of the Potomac—known also as “Mr. Lincoln’s Army, had been shot in battle and severely wounded and possibly paralyzed. Longfellow and his younger son, Ernest, traveled to Washington, D.C. to find Charley in a Union Hospital, wounded, but alive, and surgeons gave a better prognosis that Charley would eventually recover. Overwhelmed by the continued grief of the loss of his wife, the country he loved and had so eloquently written about, was torn apart, fighting against itself in the tragedy of the Civil War, where his son was wounded and the outcome unknown.
The despair and sadness of loss and near loss, the world around him engulfed in the madness of war. Yet, on December 25, 1863, Mr. Longfellow, back home in Cambridge, heard the church bells of his town and inspired by this and the message of Christmas, of peace on earth, good-will to men, wrote a poem that was timely and timeless: I will read the first verse. “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! In Southport, we hear the bells on Christmas Day and the carols of Christmas we will continue to play.
The world is immersed in a battle, the enemy of which is invisible and no city or town regardless of country or geographic location is left unscathed and the loss of life has been devastating to families and friends. Yet Southport, because of our location, a village nestled and protected by the river, and who we are, resilient, strong and resolute, we will prevail.
The best Christmas gift you can give is to look out for each other, remain vigilant, and stay close to home and only with those you have been close to during this difficult time. And when it is your turn, roll up your sleeve and receive the gift that protects you and those around you.
So next year, next Christmas, we will hear the bells on Christmas day, arm in arm, proclaiming peace on earth good-will to men. The First Lady and I wish you the Blessings of a Merry Christmas and hope for the beginnings of a better New Year.