In the Bleak Mid-Winter
In the bleak mid-winter 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 mid-winter long ago.
Allow me to start this meditation with an observation that will be “old news” to most of you. We do not know what time of year Jesus was born. Maybe it was as cold as “In the Bleak Midwinter” suggests, but it could have been a balmy midsummer night; we simply do not know.
We imagine a cold nativity, I suppose, because we are a few days into the winter season when we celebrate Christmas, and weather is very important in setting the mood of the season. So imagining Mary, Joseph, and the baby experiencing our bleak December weather is a good and valuable way of putting ourselves in the stable on the night of Jesus’ birth.
However, this beautifully haunting song also invites us to do something when we arrive on the scene. It bids us to ask the question, “What gift would I bring to our new born king?” And it also gives us the answer, we are to give Christ the gift of our hearts.
As the melody sends us around and through the scene, floating as angels bearing witness to this grand event, we may struggle to know how it is that a heart may be given. The bitter wind makes us pull our coats in tight, the long night begs us to huddle around the comfort of a fire; we close ourselves off, protecting ourselves from the dark and the cold. Our posture suggests we are conserving, not giving.
Our capacity to give our hearts as a gift is empowered by God’s own extravagant intervention. On that dark, cold night so many years ago, a light began to shine in the darkness, and the darkness has no capacity to put it out.
With that light, God finds us in the bleak night. The darker the night, the brighter light. The gift of Christ’s light seeks us out, huddled and afraid. The spirit of God seeks us out, and finding our hearts, blows on the coals still glowing in the bleak midwinter of our souls. God’s gift enables our hearts to become gift.
— Dr. Steve Sumerel