Every year, I wait for the Christmas song that I hear as if for the first time. It was officially past Christmas day when I heard this year’s.
At church I picked up the hymnal and randomly opened to It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. Reading the full text of the song, I realized I’d never heard all four verses:
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.
The song spoke to me on many levels, and the one most profoundly was the last verse’s vision of the days to come when a new earth and heaven will proclaim the song the angels sing to us this day.
A little web research revealed that 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.