Upon a Midnight Clear
Everywhere we go right now, we hear Christmas music. It plays in shopping malls, department stores, and coffee shops as background noise. It’s piped in everywhere, used to sell products, and to spur us to go shopping and give to charities. I like Christmas music, or at least most of it. A few holiday tunes I could do without. We hum or sing along when we hear one, maybe even do a little jig or tap our foot to the tune. We walk through packed stores hearing these carols. We sing them in church. We hear them on the radio and on the TV. Almost impossible to avoid them, yet we don’t really think about them. I want to take some time to consider their words. We may know, but we’ve never really thought about them, not in real, deep way, anyway.
My hope is that these reflections will help you celebrate the reason for the season and have a deeper appreciation for this time of the year.
Today I want to look at It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.
This classic carol, whose music warms the heart and tugs at the soul, begins with these lines.
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, good will to men, from heaven’s all gracious King! The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.
For years, I never thought much about this glorious song. The song the angels sang to those simple, ordinary, hardworking shepherds that were down there in the fields keeping watch over their flocks. The message is peace. A message we all need to hear. With the school shooting last week and the whole financial situation with congress, it seems we are all consumed with stress, violence, egotism, and disaster. I do not want to get into it here. We are facing hard times and need the peace that this song and others like it sing about. We need to hear the message of Christmas even more this year. We need to not just hear the message of Christmas, but also apply it to our life in a real way.
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.
That phrase “two thousand years of wrong,” strikes me as apt to our present condition. We are wrong. All of us have done wrong and continue to do so. I can list the NRA who wants to put guns into schools or Congress who don’t seem willing to do their jobs. Yet, we can also list wrongs that are more personal—how we treat each other and all the myriad ways we fall short daily. Each of us has done wrong and we keep doing the wrong. I am not trying to be discouraging or depressing. I am simply speaking truth. We sin. We fail at being who we ought to be.
We, Christians should be able to look most steadily and serenely at the facts remembering the unshakable and unchangeable promises of God. God loves us. God loves us so much that he forsakes Heaven to incarnate on earth to die a criminal’s death, so that we can live a life like the one Jesus did with God. Even though it was two thousand years ago that the angels sang “Peace on earth, and beneath the heavenly strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong,” the stanza end’s with “Hush the noise” and “hear the angels sing.” It may begin with the bad news, but it ends with what really matters the good news.
This carol like many of the Christmas songs we sing but don’t think about is the gospel in song. We sinned and God unwilling to give up on us sent his son to reconcile all of creation back to God. It was a rescue mission, a battle between life and death, good and evil, love and hate. The good news that needs to be shouted from rooftops and sung loud and clear is that life, good, and love won. God is singing a love song to us. If only we hush long enough to hear it, we will see how good life is and that love will always have the final word.
May you see this Christmas that God loves you, loves you more than you will ever know!