Christmas Music Matters!
During this Season, we hear Christmas Carols everywhere. We should, however, extract them from the Muzak of Elevator Music and take heed to the very important message many impart. For Christians who celebrate this Feast of the Nativity of Christ, which is, itself, connected to and expressive of the Birth of the New Light at the Winter Solstice, Christmas Music, including the Western Christmas Carol tradition, teaches us the real meaning and impact we are called to implement in the world.
- 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, goodwill to men,1
- From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
- The world in solemn stillness lay,
- To hear the angels sing.
- Still through the cloven skies they come,
- With peaceful wings unfurled,
- And still their heavenly music floats
- O’er all the weary world;
- Above its sad and lowly plains,
- They bend on hovering wing,
- And ever o’er its Babel sounds
- The blessèd angels sing.
- Yet with the woes of sin and strife
- The world has suffered long;
- Beneath the angel-strain have rolled2
- Two thousand years of wrong;
- And man, at war with man, hears not3
- The love-song which they bring;4
- O hush the noise, ye men of strife,5
- And hear the angels sing.
- And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,6
- Whose forms are bending low,
- Who toil along the climbing way
- With painful steps and slow,
- Look now! for glad and golden hours
- come swiftly on the wing.
- O rest beside the weary road,
- And hear the angels sing!
- For lo!, the days are hastening on,
- By prophet bards foretold,7
- When with the ever-circling years
- Comes round the age of gold8
- When peace shall over all the earth
- Its ancient splendors fling,9
- And the whole world give back the song10
- Which now the angels sing.
- 1Peace on the earth, goodwill to all
- 2Beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled
- 3And warring humankind hears not
- 4The tidings which they bring
- 5O hush the noise and cease your strife
- 6And you, beneath life’s crushing load
- 7By prophets seen of old
- 8Shall come the time foretold
- 9When the new heaven and earth shall own
- The prince of Peace their King
- 10And all the world give back the song
There are two musical settings for the hymn, “Carol,” composed by Richard Storrs Willis, the version best known in America:
and “Noel,” adapted from an English melody by A. Sullivan, best known in the U.K.:
We should note that the last stanza alludes to the coming Golden Age, prophesied by the Sibyl and Vergil, which inspired the inscription on the Reverse of the Great Seal of the United States:
|Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis aetas;||Now comes the final era of the Sibyl‘s song;|
|Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo.||The great order of the ages is born afresh.|
|iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna,||And now justice returns, honored rules return (or return of Saturn’s reign);|
|iam nova progenies caelo demittitur alto.||now a new lineage is sent down from high heaven.|
I don’t think I need to say much more. Sing through this marvelous poem and meditate on its message of Peace that the Logos Incarnate has come to inspire in us.
Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant