Hymn text by Edmund H. Sears, 1810-1876. View the full text of this hymn.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, good will to men
From heav’n's all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

My favorite part of the Christmas story as told in Luke 2 has always been the bit with the angels and shepherds. I love to imagine the shock that must have been on those poor shepherds’ faces, and bewildered conversation that must have occurred afterward. “Did you just…? Did that really…? An angel???”

But not just one angel: an entire multitude! It’s as if they could scarcely wait for the first angel to announce the “good tidings of great joy” before they suddenly burst of the scene, “praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:13-14) The day had finally come! The Only Begotten of the Father had been born! What excitement there must have been on the other side of the veil!

And yet “the world in solemn stillness lay.” Yes, some noticed the signs of His birth: wise men in the East (see Matthew 2), Nephites in the Americas (see 3 Nephi 1), and I’m sure there were others about whom I hope to someday learn. On the whole, though, the Christ-child came into the world pretty simply and quietly.

Still thru the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heav’nly music floats
O’er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hov’ring wing,
And ever o’er its babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

The world continued on as it always had, and Jesus “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). He was eventually rejected, accused, crucified by the people He was born to save. The Son of the Everlasting God lived and died and lived again, and so few even knew He existed at all. His name is known throughout the world, but the “babel sounds” of busyness, selfishness, pride, and fear frequently drown out His message of love, hope, faith, and forgiveness.

But the blessed angels sing on. They know who He is. They know what He has done. And they know what is to come.

For lo! the days are hast’ning on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heav’n and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Someday the entire world will know Him too. All will join the heavenly throng in singing glory to God. Joy and peace and love will abound. The “weary world” will be renewed and the “sad and lowly plains” will be exalted. Christ will be King.

Until then, we will add our humble hallelujahs to those of the heavenly host. Just like those angels who simply had to share the good news with someone, we know who He is. We know what He has done. And we know what is to come.

What a glorious song to sing.

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