By most measurements, John Pierpont’s life was anything but successful. In 1804, he graduated from Yale College and entered his professional life as an educator, but that didn’t last long. He was too easy on his students. Pierpont then attempted a legal career, but that also came to an abrupt end; he was too generous to his clients, extending credit and failing to collect legal fees.
He then went into business for himself as a dry goods merchant. Unfortunately, business wasn’t his thing; he didn’t charge enough to turn a profit and he failed to collect on debts created by extending credit. John Pierpont then tried his hand at poetry, and yes, while he was a published writer he didn’t earn enough royalties to make a living. You got it. Another failure.
What was left for Pierpont to do? He became a minister. (No snarky comments, please.) He went to Harvard School of Divinity and was ordained at the Hollis Street Church in Boston. But, because he favored prohibition and was anti-slavery, John Pierpont landed in trouble with some of his parishioners and they asked him to resign.
He entered the political arena and ran for the governor’s seat in the state of Massachusetts and lost. He then made a bid for a congressional seat in Washington . . . and lost. The last five years of his life? Pierpont spent them as a file clerk tucked away in an obscure office of the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. Did he find fulfillment? Not really. He had no passion for it.
Pierpont is buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He died in 1866. His grave marker reads, “Poet, Preacher, Philosopher, Philanthropist.”
Now before you place John Pierpont in a column marked “Losers”, every December we celebrate him; it’s a memorial of sorts. You see, John Pierpont wrote a Christmas song. It’s a song about the simple joy of flying through drifts of snow in a “one-horse open sleigh”, laughing and singing with the best of friends! John Pierpont penned the words as a simple gift to his family, friends, and church, and in doing so he left a permanent gift for every Christmas: the invisible gift of joy.
Yes. John Pierpont wrote the Christmas song, “Jingle Bells!” It was his way of reminding us that in the midst of our own personal winter, we too can celebrate the angelic message: “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy . . .” Thanks, John, for sharing your song & success with us!