Challenged by a fellow blogger to really think about the words we sing at Christmas, I began wrestling over verse three of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."
O ye, beneath life's crushing loadAfter a little research, I found that minister Edmund Sears penned this five-stanza poem in 1849 per request for a Sunday School class on Christmas Eve. The world was not at rest and it seems this weighed heavy on Sears who could hardly pen an eloquent poem focused on beauty and peace in Bethlehem while the Christ-child was born within. America was at war with Mexico, revolution loomed in Europe and Sears saw the world in a rage and not wanting to hear the Christmas message: Jesus came once to save mankind and He's coming again.
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
If we have ears for the Christmas message, we can look forward to the "glad and golden hour" Jesus will return and even now "rest beside the weary road." However, how much of the world is caught up in the rituals and expectations of Christmas festivities, anxiety over a new president, finances, health care...? We can't possibly hear the Holy Spirit speaking to our souls: peace and reassurance, the promise of eternal life in God's presence.
No matter where your heart is this Christmas (I must admit, mine easily gets caught up in lists, cooking, wrapping, shopping...) will you rest and hear the message the angels brought 2000 years ago? This child came to change everything for us. Without His arrival, we were destined for torturous eternal death. Yet, if we would believe that all our sins were heaped upon Him and He satisfied God's wrath toward our sins by offering Himself as a perfect substitution for us, we can be assured of eternal life without fear. This is the "peace among those with whom He is pleased," (Luke 2:14) that the angels sang. Revel in this truth consistently this week.
- 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 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 rolled
- Two thousand years of wrong;
- And man, at war with man, hears not
- The love-song which they bring;
- O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
- And hear the angels sing.
- And 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.
- O rest beside the weary road,
- And hear the angels sing!
- For lo!, the days are hastening on,
- By prophet bards foretold,
- When with the ever-circling years
- Comes round the age of gold
- When peace shall over all the earth
- Its ancient splendors fling,
- And the whole world give back the song
- Which now the angels sing.