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Give Back the Song Which Now the Angels Sing

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Are you familiar with these words?

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 blessed angels sing.

On December 29, 1849, the Christian Register, published in Boston, Massachusetts from 1821 to 1857, told readers about Edmund Sears who wrote the 5 verses of "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" that same year. In 1850, Richard Storrs Willis wrote the melody so familiar to us today.

It’s been said that Sears' song is remarkable for its focus not in Bethlehem, but in his own time, and on the contemporary issue of war and peace, that it was written during a period of personal melancholy, and with news of revolution in Europe and the United States' war with Mexico fresh in his mind. (

Verses 3 and 4 seem to capture this idea.

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!

Edmund Sears may well have captured our thoughts today.

Our world is suffering. History has recorded two thousand years of wrong. Man is still at war with man, not just on faraway battlefields. Many homes have become battlefields.

Edmund Sears calls to us, as people of strife, to hush the noise and hear the angels sing!

Sometimes, life is a crushing load. We become bent over as we try to keep going. Our steps become painful and slow. We wonder how we can go on. We are weary.

Edmund Sears reminds us to rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!

Here’s the final verse to his beloved hymn:

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 splendours fling, And the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing.

Let’s be counted among those who give back the song which now the angels sing: Peace on the earth, goodwill to men, from Heaven’s all-gracious King.

Father in heaven, may it be so for all of us. Amen.

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