Bleak Midwinter

The first time I saw her picture I thought nothing of it. I had no thought that this woman would impact my life in any way. Her brothers were artists and they had captured her image and preserved it for posterity.

I was wrong.

In the winter of 2020 I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but things felt very bleak. By then the world was all in dealing with the Rona. My work days were tedious and tiresome. I’m convinced I have some low key PTSD as a result. Online, Zoom, and “in person” was now added to the lexicon of how events would be differentiated. In fact, not much really was in person, and Christmas was on its way. I received an electronic invitation to attend a Christmas program put on by a large church. By way of clicking “here” I accepted. 

It was a Sunday night, I was sitting at my kitchen table looking at the backlit screen of my phone when my world was impacted a bit more. 

A song began to play and the words via the closed captioning of my phone brought tears to my eyes. I just sat there alone at my table sobbing because it felt like someone had finally put words to the burden and the deep and cold despair that I had been feeling since April 2020 that was now magnified times a hundred at Christmas. 

The song I would learn was called ”In the Bleak Midwinter,” and to my recollection I had never heard it before. 

It quickly entered my list of preferred Christmas songs.  I learned the song was a poem originally and it was written by a woman, her name Christina Rossetti. She was an Italian exile living in London. There is a fair amount of information on the interwebs about her, but I found it interesting that she was born and would die in the midst of the cold and bleakest of days. 

The poem she wrote was about the King, and while I get it’s an allegory and all that, I can’t help but think the world was colder and bleaker and helpless until He came, and her poem-turned-simple-song captured that. 

Her birthday is on December 5th, and her death on the 29th of the same month. While I don’t know if the world will recognize it or not, I wanted to acknowledge that despite her not being here anymore and being almost – if not mostly – forgotten, I am thankful for her encouragement during those deep, dark, midwinter days when the world felt cold as iron and the blessing of a baby that first Christmas morn.

In the Bleak Midwinter – sung by Susan Boyle

In the bleak midwinter

BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

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.

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,

Worshipped 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.

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