July 27, 2017

In the Bleak Midwinter

Winter is officially here, if not by the calendar, at least by the weather outside. The temperature has been consistently below freezing every night for the past week, the cloud cover is becoming permanent, and wintry mixes are beginning to be forecasted. As much as I enjoy warm weather, wearing flip-flops and feeling the sunshine on my shoulders, I begin looking forward to seeing a glistening world as it draws closer to Christmas each year. There’s just something beautiful about the purity of a world wrapped in white and the sparkling glimmer of icicles dripping from branches and rooftops. It brings to my mind one of my favorite Christmas carols, In the Bleak Midwinter (by Christina Rosetti):

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Now, we know that Christ was probably not born in the winter, in a snow-filled country filled with frost and frozen water. However, besides loving the simply beauty of these words, I think we can also relate them to the state of the world: bleak and cold towards God. Consider the time of Christ’s birth. The world was already weary and groaning for a Messiah, for the promised Deliverer. The earth was filled with men whose hearts were hardened like stones toward God. The atmosphere of mankind was cold and desolate. But look what happens next:

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

In the coldness and bleakness of the world as it was, God Himself became a man, a little tiny baby, and was born in a crude stable in the town of Bethlehem. What extravagance was wrapped up in that little bundle of swaddling clothes! This tiny baby, so small and helpless, will one day return (in greater glory than we could ever imagine) to reign over all the world! The Lord God Almighty, who cannot be contained by space or time, made a manger, a feeding trough for animals, His birthplace. How amazing is His glory! and yet how humble He became for our sakes!

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.