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HYMN 278 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear/Angels We Have Heard on High/Nå har vi vaske Golvet

Text: Edmund H. Sears (1810-1876) Tune: Richard Storrs Willis (1819-1900)

Angels announcing the Birth of Christ Govert Flinck

1. 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, good will to men, From heaven's all-gracious King." The world in solemn stillness lay, To hear the angels sing.

2. 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 blessed angels sing.

3. 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!

4. For lo! the days are hastening on, By prophet seen of old, When with the ever-circling years Shall come the time foretold When peace shall over all the earth Its ancient splendors fling, And the whole world send back the song Which now the angels sing.

Angels we Have Heard on High

Text: Traditional French Tune: Traditional French

1. Angels we have heard on high, Singing sweetly through the night, And the mountains in reply Echoing their brave delight. R/Gloria in excelsis Deo, Gloria in excelsis Deo.

2. Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why these songs of happy cheer? What great brightness did you see? What glad tidings did you hear? R/

3. Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing. Come, adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn King. R/

Tr. James Chadwick

The Birth of Christ Giotto di Bondone 1315

MEDITATION Strange how memory works. Today is Little Christmas Eve as the Norwegians call it. Lille Julaften. Before COVID we knew it as a day of great busyness, last minute shopping, baking. wrapping gifts and cleaning. So I am linking to Alf Prøysen’s very sweet song for Little Christmas Eve. It is in the Norwegian hymnal now!

We get the traditional meats and cheeses from Ingebretsens, the Scandinavian grocery in Minneapolis. This year there was no Solo, the orange soda from Norway! We will make do with the rice pudding, the lefse, fruitcake, julekake and cookies my sister makes.

The memory I have goes back to a colleague I had in the English department at Luther College, Clara Paulson. She had grown up in Buxton, North Dakota, on the Red River Valley, and graduated from Concordia College. She was an elegant woman with a strong faith, consummate manners and deep convictions about life. She had the kind of rigor English teachers used to have. She knew she would be failing her students if she didn’t require good writing and clear thinking. She would upbraid any of her younger colleagues if we seemed to be failing in that department, something you never forgot.

She told me once that they had buried her father on Little Christmas Eve. She described standing on the wind-swept North Dakota prairie in freezing weather as they committed him to the ground listening to the words in the service that promised the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. The contrast between the brutal weather and her warm faith became sort of a parable for me of Little Christmas Eve. Into this bleak world the Lord Jesus came to give us life. So celebrate!

As the carol has it, we are now beneath life’s crushing load. But even the freezing weather, the coffin, the grave have been defeated by Christ’s coming into the world. "O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing."

And they sing no better than they do in Angels we Have heard on High. Gloria in excelsis deo!

Edmund Sears

HYMN INFO Edmund Sears, born in Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard in 1837. He became a Unitarian pastor in 1838. He served several parishes, but also devoted himself to writing theological works and poetry. The hymn is really about social justice and peace. It appeared first in a newspaper in 1849 and then in his last book, Sermons and Songs of the Christian Life, published in 1875.

The tune writer, Wills, was born in Boston and attended Yale University. He went to Leipzig to study composition with some of the greatest teachers of the time. While there he became close friends with Felix Mendelssohn, the founder of the school. Wills urged the recognition of American born composers and worked to feature them in his time as music critic of the New York Tribune and other papers.

About "Angels we have heard on high" there is little we know except that James Chadwick, Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, in northeast England, put it into English so it could be sung to the original French tune.


The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Matthew Culleton and choir


Traditional Choir arrangement by John Rutter


Alf Prøysen with a sweet cartoon


We’ve washed the floors for Christmas and brought the firewood in

And put the sheaf of wheat out, the Christmas tree is trimmed,

And now we sit to rest a bit and take a breath or two

I’ll rock my brother’s cradle so he will slumber through.

Now see if you can find it, the Christmas star above,

It twinkles, oh, so brightly, it’s shining out with love.

The greatest star in heaven, it shines so clear and bright,

Look far above the rooftops to see the lovely light.

The twinkling star, it is so kind, I hope that you can see

Now listen while I tell you just what the starlight means.

The first time that it twinkled, it made for us a bridge

Between the heav’ns, the stable, the cattle and the crib.

Within it lay a baby, a tiny little child,

His mother watched him closely, his father stood and smiled.

The shepherd boys came running to see the little boy

With lambs upon their shoulders, he filled their hearts with joy.

Then entered in three wise men, they’d traveled there for days

They didn’t know the reason and didn’t know the way.

The star above was watching and led them to the place

Where they would kneel and worship this little child of grace.

It was the very first time the star above had shone

But now it’s gladly shining to make this good news known

It tells us all this story, it twinkles as it tells

--Look high above the rooftops, see where the Virgin dwells.

Tr. Gracia Grindal

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