The Hope of Christmas Past
by KrisAnne Hall, JD
Many people have expended a great deal of energy this year in the fight to see our Liberty protected so America’s principles may be restored. As we enter into this Christmas season with many struggles ahead and mountains yet to be conquered, let us be reminded of a hope rooted firmly in the American experience.
Our history is rich with men and women who have surrendered all so that many could have the greatest nation the world has ever known. For over 700 years before the Declaration of Independence, men and women were learning the lessons that would be taught to our founders. Lessons that would infuse our founders with a courage and a hope that would build the greatest nation in the world. Patrick Henry said, “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way to judge the future but by the past.” He was letting us know that his knowledge of those last 700 years, were the very reason he knew how this fight would turn out. He knew that every time men and women understood the value of Liberty and pledged all to protect it, they were always victorious. These guarantees of history must have raced through Henry’s head; 1100 Charter of Liberties, Magna Carta, 1628 Petition of Right, 1641 Grand Remonstrance, and his very own Bill of Rights of 1689. These were battles fought in the name of Liberty and he knew that victory was a guarantee. This is our history. This is our guarantee. This is our victory!
Patrick Henry had more than knowledge of history. Patrick Henry knew their victory was guaranteed not only by the lamp of experience, but also because they served a “just God who presides over the destinies of nations” and when standing for Liberty, a gift from God, they could not fail.
“We are three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.”
Benjamin Franklin reiterated this understanding to our founders when he proclaimed:
“In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor…and have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”
Though we may become reacquainted with the history that provides us with a guaranteed victory when we choose to stand for Liberty, we are still wanting until we reacquaint ourselves with the Giver of that Liberty. Thomas Jefferson warned,
“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?”
Our founders were in a position to pledge their lives, the lives of their families, everything that they had because they were firmly rooted in ALL the assurances of Liberty.
There is a story told of Daniel Webster – one of the greatest orators of our time – on his death bed, being ministered to by his dearest friend and physician. When his friend realized he could no longer minister to Daniel’s physical needs, he began ministering to his spiritual needs. He read to Daniel his favorite hymns. He read, “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins…” and when Daniel’s friend read the last verse to this hymn “Then in a nobler sweeter song, I’ll sing thy power to save, when this poor lisping stammering tongue lies silent in the grave” one of the greatest orators the world has ever known uttered his final three words, “Amen, Amen, Amen.” Our founders knew that Liberty is a gift from God, and those that stand for God’s gifts will be victorious through God’s promises. They firmly believed that living in tyranny was worse than dying for Liberty. They knew that through their faith in Christ, their rewards in standing for God’s gift would be certain, whether on the battle field or in Heaven.
This is not the darkest hour of our nation by far. We still live in the greatest nation in the world. A nation built upon the principles of Liberty. The principles that cry all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. A nation where all men have equal opportunity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No other nation can make that claim. No other people have that birth right. But with that gift comes great responsibility to secure that Liberty for generations to come. We cannot lose hope. We cannot let Liberty slip. Because, it is not our hope, it is not our Liberty, it is the hope and Liberty of ages and millions yet unborn. We must reacquaint ourselves with the lamp of experience that gives us the courage to see a guaranteed victory. But we must also reacquaint ourselves with the Giver of that gift of Liberty and the provider of the hope of victory.
In one of the darkest moments of our history, a story is told of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Henry’s wife had been tragically and fatally burned in June of 1861. Henry, himself, was badly burned trying to put out the fire that consumed his beloved wife. He was so consumed by grief over the loss of his wife, at Christmas he wrote in his journal, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” One year later, Henry wrote, “A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” That following year, Henry learns that his oldest son was severely wounded in the Civil War after a bullet passed under his should blades damaging his spine. His journal was blank on Christmas on 1864. However, on Christmas day, 1865, Henry penned the words to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. During one of the darkest times our nation has ever known, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow found his hope;
“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!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
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!”
Henry awoke from his despair and realized that God is not dead and is still the Giver of peace and hope. He knew that God promises victory to those who trust in Christ and will stand for God’s gifts. He was able to express that hope in the phrase, “God is not dead; nor does he sleep! The Wrong shall fail; the Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men!” That same promise belongs to us, the greatest nation this world has ever known. We simply must place our trust in the right place. Now that’s some hope and change I can rely on!