I have loved carol In the Bleak Midwinter since I was a very young child. Gustav Holst’s music never fails to touch me deeply and the Christina Rosetti’s words have deepened in my soul more and more over the years.
As a child, growing up in Alaska, I was fascinated by earth standing as hard as iron and water like a stone. Later, I was captivated by the beauty of snow falling snow on snow, snow on snow – what a beautiful image, and one that we know something about here in Western New York! Then there’s the vast nature of God reflected in the line, “Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain…” Even so, God somehow managed to squeeze all of God’s self into that stable, into that manger, into that tiny baby boy. I have always loved the idea, too, of angels and archangels gathered around, singing sweet lullabies to the little Lord of lords in his swaddling clothes while cherubim and seraphim sang glorious praises to God that filled the heavens and called the shepherds. And when they brought my youngest son to me, newly born, and held his warm little face next to mine, I gave him a kiss and heard music, “…but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshiped the beloved with a kiss.”
This year, I’m way behind in my Christmas shopping, and I’m pondering this whole notion of gift giving. I’m the sort that tends to stress out about getting just the right gift, the one that will surprise and delight the receiver, the one that will really make a difference. As I reflect on the last verse of In the Bleak Midwinter, I realize – true confession here – that Jesus is not even on my list of people to give gifts to even though it’s HIS birthday. Nothing seems good enough for our Lord, and goodness only knows where we are supposed to mail our gifts! Happily, our carol offers a good suggestion:
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.
I think we give Jesus the best of our hearts when we seek and find Him present in others and offer our love to them. Bishop Steven Charleston put it this way:
“What gift do we have to give this year? Surely, there is nothing better we have to offer than ourselves, our faithful presence in the lives of others, our unconditional love for those who need us, our respect and encouragement, our strength and courage, our passion and our energy. No holding back. No compromise. If ever there was a moment for us to each dig deep and give all that we can: this is that season. Gifts of gold and silver will one day melt away, but the gift of the human spirit endures forever. This year, be the gift you know you are, be the light others long to see.”
Be the gift. Be the light. You are all SUCH a gift and blessing to me, and I pray that as your Rector I can give you back even a fraction of the joy that you bring me as we journey from the manger to the cross together. This year and always, I give you my heart.
Yours in Christ’s love,