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.
That’s how the old poem goes. The poem is, “In The Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rossetti, c. 1870.
Winter’s not my favorite season, yet some of my favorite things are a part of this season: Christmastime, family activities, fires, hot chocolate, spiced cider, mulled wine, strong coffee and rich food. But I miss the sunshine, the leaves and being outside. I complain of humidity in summer and the dry air of winter.
Winter seems quieter, slower, more contemplative. I can almost picture the scene where Ms. Rossetti penned her poem. From that first verse you might think she was depressed or in despair. Winter can do that to you. But when you read the rest, you see she was contrasting winter with something else. Something new. Something with promise, like the coming spring. The poem continues:
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.
Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the beloved with a kiss.
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.
Maybe that’s the key to seasons of bleakness whether they be in winter or summer, in abundance or poverty. 2018 has had it all, or so it seems. The world seems meaner somehow, more base, more selfish, more arrogant, more misguided.
But it also seems more hopeful. I have the privilege of being around immensely creative young people and wonderful family. They seem more energized, more visionary.
I want to be among those who understand there is more to the poem, more to the story, more to this life.
Most know of the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Many know these words to be the introduction to the Declaration of Independence. Many would see these unalienable (which means you can’t give them away) Rights to be the highest form of humanity. They’re good, don’t get me wrong, but there is more.
If we stop with these then we will put all of our hopes in political solutions. That’s the mold they are cast in. It should be clear to us that the ultimate answers are not in politics. There is more.
We always speak of the turn from one year to the next as the NEW year, fraught with opportunity, a new start. I am resolving to aim higher, drink deeper, see more, listen more, give more and live more. And with all that living there is a chance that at the end of 2019 I will weigh more. Just being honest.
By the way, that old poem was made into a wonderful Christmas Carol. I highly recommend James Taylor’s version of the song. You can find it on his album “At Christmas” along with a lovely version of Auld Lang Syne; perfect for midnight tonight.