It Came Upon a Midnight Clear!
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14 (NIV)
Last week the Lord-awaken me to say “it came upon a midnight clear”, over and over and again in my prayer time, I kept hearing this phrase? I was intrigued, so I looked up the history of the song. Only to find it was not a song at all but a poem later put to music. As I read the history of this what was first a poem, then a song, I realized in the depth of man’s despair, God wanted to make himself real to the writer of the poem, Edmund Sears. Some 200 years later this song inspired by despair of the times, still is bringing hope of peace and the spirit of God is speaking. And yes, God can still today speak to even those who do not believe, to receive revelation of the true Messiah and King.
God is still looking to change lives no matter what background of religious belief, when you are seeking the truth and have no hope the Hope of Glory will display His splendor which will pick you up from the depths of brokenness to show you the glory of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This commonly sang carol, which does not mention the birth of Christ, the focus is rather on the song of the angels, in Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.The context of this poem later put to music sheds an awesome light on the goodness of God and the prophetic message of the spirit of peace in birth of Jesus, with insight of the man, Edmund Sears, who wrote it.
As a Massachusetts native Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876) earned a degree from Harvard Divinity School and was ordained a Unitarian minister in 1839, serving congregations throughout Massachusetts.
First, let’s set the scene of what is now known as one of the most sang Christmas Carols on the earth. Edmund Sears was a Unitarian Pastor. At this point, Mr. Sears was at the lowest ebb of his life; he was depressed, hopeless, and feeling there was nothing for him but a place of despair, his words, “I was near a nervous breakdown”!
Just like Mr. Sears at our deepest despair or even our greatest accomplishments, God desires to reveal His love, hope, and peace to ALL mankind, no matter if one has or has not received the Lord as their savior? He can take the broken pieces of life to produce not only a beautiful poem but a song of hope, but inspiration for generations to come!
As a Unitarian Edmund Hamilton Sears believed Jesus did not claim to be God and his teachings did not suggest the existence of a triune God. Unitarians did believe in the moral authority, but not the divinity of Jesus. Their theology is thus opposed to the trinitarian theology of other Christian denominations.
The writings about Edmund Sears does not expose the personal reasons of what brought him to this place of anguish or emotional pain. Like today there were many things happening in the world which brought unrest. Yet, at his place of feeling lost and life having little or no meaning, he had an encounter with the Holy Spirit, whom not only revealed Himself to Edmund, but changed his heart to believe in Jesus the Messiah and the triune Godhead.
Edmund Sears, though a Unitarian, wrote in Sermons and Songs of the Christian Life (1875), He said: “Although I was educated in the Unitarian denomination, I believe and preach the Divinity of Christ.” It is said by John Julian, a editor of the Dictionary of Hymnology, an important British reference work at the turn of the 20th century, offered high praise for Sears’ two Poems which became Christmas hymns (the other being the lesser-known “Calm on the listening ear of night”), calling them some of the best in the English language.
Dr. Hawn, a professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology says this, “It is right that we should joyfully sing “Hark! The herald angels sing” and “Joy to the world” each Christmas season. But always, there are moments when we realize the message of peace has not yet been fully realized on earth. Then we sing, “It came upon the midnight clear, and the power of the Incarnation and the message of the gospel touch us even more deeply.“
With all the pain, unrest, and tragedy we see around the world today, as you read or sing this amazing poem, may you feel as Edmund Sears felt, yet when he met the overwhelming peace of God which the Angels sang about, he could cont deny the presence of the true Messiah and King, Jesus! In your darkest night, may the Spirit of Christmas become the brightest light in Christ and may His peace fill your heart and mind as you too say with the Angels, “It came upon a midnight clear, peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind.
Rev. Sheila Zellers
Motivated by Love Ministries International