It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

December 6, 2012

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” has never been one of my favorite Christmas carols.  I stumble over a couple of things in the song, one being the commonly sung tune.  Critiquing a tune is subjective, I know, so I don’t expect anyone to agree with me.  Let me just say that I don’t think a song about the angelic announcement of Christ’s birth should make me envision the congregation joining hands and whistling one of the verses.  And it certainly shouldn’t make me think of roller skating.  The other thing I struggle with is the idea of winged angels singing, when the Scripture says nothing about wings or singing.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying…. (Luke 2:13).

And then I heard Sara Groves’s version.  Whoa.  It’s amazing how a different tune — a tune that, in my opinion, better fits the feel of the lyrics — can help you enter into a song for the first time.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  I hear the song now.  The winged angels are still singing, but there’s poetry in them there lyrics, and I’m good with that.

I’m not just good with it, I’m moved by it.  It’s astonishing, is it not, that the Son of God would enter this world at all, much less as a baby, and that at his birth the Father’s message to our sinful world would be peace.  Peace!  The older I get, the more clearly I discern how much I deserve judgment and wrath, yet here is God announcing peace in Christ the Lord.  The song is wrecking me to the point of worship.

Friend, if you’ve been bent low under life’s crushing load, if your steps along the climbing way are slow and painful, this song is for you.  This Christmas, sit and rest beside the weary road, and listen to the song of the angels once again.  Receive the Father’s announcement of peace upon you in Christ, and sing your glory back to him.

Three final matters.  One, thank you for this arrangement, Sara Groves.  Two, I’ve included the lyrics below.  Three, I’m as perplexed as you by the Eye of Sauron thing, but this was the best video I could find.

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, to hear them sing

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps so slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels, and hear them sing

“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels, to hear them sing
Sing –Sing –Sing – Sing

Still through the broken 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 Babel sounds
The blessed angels, the blessed angels sing


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