Christ Our Peace


Happy Advent to you! At Jacob’s Well we are spend­ing this Advent sea­son in a teaching series called Christ Our Peace. In light of the angels in Luke 2 declar­ing, “Glory to God in the high­est heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”, we’ve been singing a ver­sion of It Came Upon A Mid­night Clear some this month.

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

My ver­sion here was inspired by a cou­ple of things. The first was an Advent ser­mon by NT Wright that included a sec­tion about this great Christ­mas hymn.

Christ­mas is about God act­ing in the real world. It’s about peo­ple like Wilber­force – peo­ple who go out into the world and make a dif­fer­ence in the name of Jesus. It’s about peo­ple like you. I am pray­ing that God will call sev­eral of you here tonight not only to trust him for your­selves, to come to know him in and through his incar­nate Son, but also to put your shoul­der to the wheel, to work in prayer and faith, and social and polit­i­cal skill, to carry for­ward the work of the king­dom that was launched at the first Christ­mas. We need you; we need you both in the ordained min­istry and in the active lay work of the church; and we need to stay focused on the task.

That’s why I’m glad that in a few moments we’re going to sing that great hymn ‘It came upon the mid­night clear’. It catches the mean­ing of Luke 2 bet­ter than most of the much-loved but essen­tially escapist car­ols. All except, that is, for the last verse. Look at it and feel free to cor­rect it in your copy! ‘For lo, the days are has­ten­ing on, by prophet-bards fore­told …’ and then, leav­ing behind the Chris­tian hope and opt­ing for an ancient pagan super­sti­tion, it says ‘when, with the ever-cir­cling years, comes round the age of gold’. Well, if you think the ages go round in cir­cles and every so often you get a Golden Age when every­thing is peace­ful and happy, think again; if that were the case, why should we work for it? Why not just shrug your shoul­ders and wait? That’s Qué Será Será the­ol­ogy – what­ever will be, will be. That wasn’t good enough for William Wilber­force; it wasn’t good enough for God, and Christ­mas proves it. Some­thing needs to be done. Try singing this instead:

For lo, the days are has­ten­ing on,
by prophets seen of old,
When, by the Spirit’s mighty power
Arrives the time fore­told:
When Peace shall over all the earth
Its promised splen­dours fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

(I’m going to ask the Suc­cen­tor if we can have those words printed next year, but feel free to sing them tonight any­way.) The point is that God will com­plete the vic­tory gained by Jesus, and that the Spirit is already at work to antic­i­pate that final day. And the way the Spirit does this is quite sim­ple: through you and me.

And so we’ve been singing the revised last stanza and it’s recorded this way on my lit­tle demo. My sec­ond inspi­ra­tion is Ella Fitzgerald’s beau­ti­fully swung ver­sion of the song. Her intro chord change really makes it for me, so I co-opted it. Hope you enjoy!