Edmund Hamilton Sears, who was the pastor of the Unitarian Church in Lancaster, Massachusetts, wrote the lyrics to It Came Upon the Midnight Clear in 1849. It was created at the bidding of W.P. Lunt, and it was possibly first sung at a Sunday school celebration. Its first publication was on December 29, 1849 in the Christian Register in Boston.

There are two common tunes. The Carol tune came first and was made by Richard Storrs Willis in 1859. It is the tune commonly used in the USA. In the UK, it is more common to hear the Noel version. This was adapted from a older English song in 1874 or 1875 by Arthur Sullivan.

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
Lyrics

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 blessèd angels sing.

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!

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 splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

NOTES: Verses 3 and 5 have alternate lyrics that can be used.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And warring humankind hears not
The tidings which they bring.
O hush, the noise and cease your strife,
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 heaven and earth shall own,
The prince of Peace their King.
And all the world give back the song,
Which now the angels sing.

* Means those two alternatives must be used together

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
YouTube Video

 

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