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 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.
"It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"is a hymn and Christmas carol written by Edmund Sears,
pastor of the Unitarian Church in Wayland, Massachusetts (verses 3 & 4)
A friend encouraged me to journey with this hymn for Advent. She too had experienced a similar loss, and someone had once offered her these verses. She told me that these words brought her comfort and strength along the way. She was right. The words from the third and fourth verses have been gentle-strong, reassuring sisters.
My hunch is that each of us can find words or phrases from these verses that speak to our souls. My heart has tended to rest in the lines: “O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing!” How I am wishing for singing angels. Even humming angels would do my heart good. Maybe I’m so focused on getting to Bethlehem that I am making way too much commotion to hear the angels’ song. Wouldn’t that be too bad?
Written back in 1849, these ageless words serve as a warm blanket on a cold and blustery night. The images he calls forth in this song feel so close to what I am experiencing that I believe Mr. Sears also knew about tender traveling. He too had companioned grief. Left foot, right foot. Listening. Watching. Waiting. Humming along.
As heartening as these words have been and continue to be for me, I am even more grateful for my friend’s gift for these days. There is both a tender and strong consolation that comes when one person acknowledges the grief of another. There is a heart-mending moment that can often happen when someone says, “I don’t know exactly how you feel but I’ve also spent a tender Advent. I am walking beside you.” Grief is ageless. It comes from loving. Angels too are ageless. They come to remind us to always listen for the song that is promised to come.