It Came Upon the Midnight Clear – the Christmas Carol Inspired by Scripture

It was 1849 in Wayland, Massachusetts. Dr. Edmund Sears, a Unitarian minister, was preparing his Christmas Eve sermon. Despite his denominational affiliation, Sears believed Jesus was the Son of God and died on a cross for the sins of the world. He also believed that Christians should reach out of the lost, the helpless, and the poor. Sears found himself depressed because of the slavery debate and the level of poverty within his own community and across the nation. This was all heavy on his mind as he wrote his sermon. He wondered how he could write about the Light of the world when the world seemed so very dark.

As Sears struggled with his sermon, he opened his Bible to Luke 2:8-11 and read these words: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

After contemplating that moment in time, Sears wrote a five verse poem titled It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. That Christmas Eve, he ended his sermon with the words of that poem. Later, a music critic named Richard Willis found the poem, thought that it needed to be a Christmas carol, and added the tune we know and love today. A few traveling musical groups picked the song up, but it didn’t grow in popularity until the 20th century when the carol was added to several denominational hymnals. Now, it is considered one of the deepest and theologically rich carols Christians sing today.

Click here to hear Josh Groban sing It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

*Image courtesy of Adrian Dascal and Unsplash

**This post and others like it can be found at www.johnjfrady.com

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