Read: Revelation 21:3-4
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear was written by Edmund Hamilton Sears in 1849. The carol started life as a poem written by its author who was a minister living in Massachusetts at the time. The music for It Came Upon A Midnight Clear was composed by American musician Richard Storrs Willis in 1859 who was inspired by the words of the poem.
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
From heavens 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 blessed angels sing.
O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
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;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.
For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.
When the angels first sang about peace on earth and goodwill to all men, the shepherds must have wondered what was going on. They certainly didn’t hear angelic choirs everyday, and first century Palestine was hardly a peaceful place. The streets buzzed with rumors of revolution and the tension often boiled over into violence. Society was split along lines of gender, race, wealth, and religion. The shepherds themselves were only a few rungs above beggars on the social ladder. For some of us, Christmas itself is a time to be with friends and family, but for others it reminds us that we are alone or separated from loved ones. Two thousand years later, we seem to be as far as ever from “heaven on earth.”
Many people in the first century were expecting a quick fix for the world’s problems, and of course that didn’t happen. It still hasn’t happened. But Christmas reminds us of God’s promise to bring in a kingdom where wars, injustice, and even death will be a thing of the past, and where we will live together with God. That’s our hope. God does have a plan. The best really is to come.
In the meantime, God continues to show His love to us in so many ways. He provides for our needs. He answers our prayers. He invites us to start living today like citizens of the kingdom that has not yet been fully revealed. We can love one another as Christ loved us here and now. We can show His compassion and His unconditional love to others today. We can experience a foretaste of the new Heaven and earth right now. We can share that experience with others. And we can do all this in the knowledge that God’s Kingdom will prevail and that the whole of creation will one day see the truth that those shepherds heard on a remote, Palestinian hillside.
- What one thing could you change to give those around you a foretaste of God’s Kingdom of peace?
From Carols: A Christmas Devotional
God is with us – in answered promises, realized dreams, and refreshed hope. How could we help but sing. During this Christmas season, explore the songs that were born from our joy that Christ has entered the world and rediscover their relevance in your life today in this 25-day reading plan.
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