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 heav’n’ all-gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come With peaceful wing...s, unfurled,
And still their heav’nly music floats O’er all the weary world:
above its sad and lowly plains They bend on hov’ring wing,
And ever o’er its babel sounds The blessed 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 hors Come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road And hear the angels sing.
For lo, the days are hast’ning on, By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heav’n and earth shall own The Prince of Peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song Which now the angels sing.
Edmund Sears was a Unitarian minister. Unlike many of his colleagues, he did believe in the deity of Christ. He also believed in the angels’ message of “peace on earth.”
This hymn, written in Massachusetts in 1849, focuses on the angels’ song of “peace n earth.” Like many other hymns written in American during the mid-1800s, it might be called a “horizontal hymn.” Such hymns called people to live well, to be at peace, and to honor God, but God was neither the recipient of praise nor the central focus of the song. The focus was on the human struggle in this world.
Peace was a timely topic when Sears penned these words. Tensions were rising in America, leading toward the Civil War. But the peace promised by the angel is not only national; it is personal as well. Sears’s third stanza encourages the weary travel to draw hope from the angels’ song.