31 Days of Song, Day #9

I've always loved the song "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear".  It has such a wistful, beautiful quality about it.  My favorite version of it is by Kutless, but I also like it by Zach Williams and The Bellow.  I wanted to include an excerpt about this song from Then Sings My Soul.

* And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Luke 2:13-14

Edmund Hamilton Sears is the author of two Christmas carols that are mirror images of each other, written fifteen years apart.
   He was born in Sandisfield, Massachusetts, on April 6, 1819, and attended Union College in Schenectady, then Harvard Divinity School.  He was ordained in the Unitarian ministry and chose to devote himself to small towns in Massachusetts, where he had time to study, think, and write.
   At twenty-four, he wrote "Calm on the Listening Ear," a Christmas carol based on the song of the angels in Luke 2.  It proved very similar to the more-famous carol he would later write.  Having the same meter and theme, and it can be sung to the same tune:

Calm on the listening ear of night / Come heaven's melodious strains,
Where wild Judea stretches far / Her silver-mantled plains.
Celestial choirs, from courts above / Shed scared glories there,
And angels, with their sparkling lyres, / Make music on the air.

Fifteen years later, he wrote its more famous twin.  "It Came upon the Midnight Clear" is an unusual carol in that there is no mention of Christ, of the newborn Babe, or of the Savior's mission.  Sears, after all, was Unitarian.  The author's only focus is the angelic request for peace on earth.
   Notice again the date of the hymn.  It was written as the clouds of civil strife were darkening the United States, setting the stage for the War Between the States.  We can grasp the concern that drove Edmund to write this hymn by reading a stanza now usually omitted from most hymnals:
Yet with the woes of sin and strife / The world hath 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!

Edmund Sears became well-known because of his hymns and books.  He was awarded a doctor of divinity degree in 1871, and took a preaching tour of England, where he was met by large congregations.  He died in Weston, Massachusetts, on January 16, 1876.

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.

-- Edmund Hamilton Sears

Today I am thankful for pain medication, even if it's just Tylenol or ibuprofen.  I had a bad headache today at work, but I took some medicine and it went away.  I know in that case it's just a case of being uncomfortable, but I'm still glad God has provided us with things like aspirin to relieve us from even minor pains.

* excerpt taken from "Then Sings My Soul Special Edition" by Robert J. Morgan, pages 28-29

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