I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas day and that you are celebrating this blessed day with the ones you love. It is a privilege to sit down today and share my thoughts with you regarding this hymn.
I have attached a link to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s performance of this song with guest speaker Ed Herrman during the choir’s Christmas concert of 2009. I would suggest that you take the time to watch Mr. Herrman tell how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the lines to this carol. If you are anything like me, you will be teary eyed by the end of it.
Part of me wants to just tell you to watch the video and then say amen, as it does such a wonderful job sharing the spirit of the carol, but I will add my voice in testimony to this hymn and its meaning.
Let’s start by answering the following question: What is the true meaning of Christmas? Christmas, or Christ’s Mass, as the word’s original form, is a day of celebration. It is a day dedicated to the celebration of Christ’s birth. His birth is essential to Christendom: without the birth of the Savior, there would be no atonement and no resurrection, cutting us all off from the presence of the Lord forever. It is a day that we celebrate as the beginning of the greatest life ever lived and is generally associated with words like peace, holiness, and joy.
When Longfellow penned the words to this hymn, he started by recognizing the chimes that traditionally rang in Christmas day. He then explains how, in the depths of despair, he thinks about all the unrest in his life and in the world, and wonders if there is a point to any of this. After all, “There is no peace on earth… For hate is strong and mocks the song/ Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
Then, something miraculous happens. The spirit descends on him, and he feels the light of the season. He pens, “The world revolved from night to day.” The Savior is often called the light of the world, for good reason. Light is a universal symbol of peace and hope. Where there is light, there cannot be darkness, synonymous with despair and pain.
As Longfellow feels the tender, sweet promptings of the spirit, his spirit is quite literally lightened. He feels the sweet power of the atonement, healing him from the pain he has been suffering. He exclaims:
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
That is my message to you today. Because our Savior was born, the right will always prevail. Though turmoil and trials will visit us as individuals and as a society, peace shall return because our Savior had such good will to men. He is the ultimate gift, one which we will spend our lives striving to both understand and honor. Today, on this most holy of days, may you and yours, with “a voice, a chime, a chant sublime,” take the time to honor our Heavenly Father and His most precious Son, the first gift of Christmas, the most precious and most treasured offering any of us will ever receive. May the spirit of Christ fill our homes and the world. My there truly be “Peace on earth, good will to men.”