December 15, 2018

It Came upon the Midnight Clear

United Methodist Hymnal – #218

. . . when peace shall over all the earth

its ancient splendors fling


Once upon a time, a friend who was visiting worship dared me to see how many alternate harmonies I could cram into one hymn. It was Advent, so I chose It Came upon a Midnight Clear. It was awesome. It’s no wonder that it is a favorite of jazz musicians. Probably the finely crafted melody enables that kind of variation. But the most interesting part of this carol is in the cyclical nature of the lyric. We hear of the angels, pronouncing the birth of Jesus. But that is followed by a plea to stop, and take a minute to again contemplate the angels’ song. Finally, the prophesy that peace will prevail, and the whole world will declare “Peace on Earth” back to the angels. Well . . . we don’t seem all that close to real peace on earth. In Seminary, I clung to the belief that all people were capable of good, and that there  could actually be a time when peace could prevail. Not to seem overly negative, but it seems less likely now than ever. What are the roadblocks to real and lasting peace? Fear? Distrust? The desire to rise by bringing down someone else? The thought of a world without conflict is perhaps an unrealistic dream. But I prefer to think that each one of us can do our part to bring about that peace. Opening our hearts to those who think, look and perhaps act differently than we do is a good place to start. And if you want to offer a prayer for that peace, it’s easy. Just read the Peace Pole at our campus entrance. “May peace prevail on earth.”


His authority shall grow continually,

and there shall be endless peace for the

throne of David and his kingdom.



God of peace, we pray for peace on earth, yet are constantly reminded that it is an unlikely reality. As St. Francis said, make us instruments of your peace. Allow us to put aside petty differences that divide us, and instead, sow seeds of peace and unity in our families, our workplaces, our communities and our world. We acknowledge that it is your will, now and always.  Amen.


~Rev. L. Michael Kelley

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