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In the Bleak Midwinter

by Phyllis Kidwell, director of children's ministries

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 incarnate, 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.

Perhaps you remember kissing a sleeping baby, or being kissed by your parents as you drifted off to sleep. There is a special sweetness in a sleeping child. Kissing the baby Jesus was Mary’s act of worship for her newborn baby in the stable so long ago. 

This hymn creates mood through the words of the English poet Christina Rosetti who wrote it in about 1872. A few years later, in 1906, Gustav Holst wrote a melody for the poem, and a new hymn was produced. Today you can hear this song recorded by many artists and groups. The music differs, yet each interpretation seems to create a cold, almost eerie spirit. The poet developed the setting of a windy, cold, snowy time many years back with the lines in the opening stanza. 

From here the poet tells the story of Jesus’ birth and welcome to the world. A child heaven could not keep and the earth could not sustain. He was welcomed by angels and cattle in that lowly stable. Then, worshiped by his mother, with her gentle kiss.

We are asked what we could give to this special baby. We know what the shepherd would give – a lamb, and what the wise men would offer, but what for us? What for those of us who may feel a little disconnected from that time and place. What for those of us who wish we had the best gift, the most valuable gift, for this tiny savior. Then we learn, the most precious gift we can offer is our heart. 

Children are taught from a young age that Jesus was a special baby…taught that Jesus’ love is shared in the church through adults, other children and their families… taught that the love of God lives in their hearts. This season, let’s give our hearts to Jesus.

•   What are gifts given to Jesus in this hymn?

•   How did Mary give her heart to Jesus?

•   As you prepare to give and receive gifts this year, consider the gift of God to us - Jesus. How can give your heart to Jesus this year?

Prayer:

Loving triune God, fill our hearts with love this season, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Help us remember to share the love we feel with others during the season, and throughout the coming days. Wrap us in your arms and comfort us. Amen.

Prayer:

Advent Hymn for week 4