In the Bleak Midwinter

I thought I’d mix in some Advent hymns for our poetry this month. Nevertheless, the first poem and hymn that I thought of is a beloved Christmas carol. Perhaps because it’s so darn cold in Minnesota right now, the carol that keeps coming to mind is Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Mid-Winter.” All of Rossetti’s work is so melodic, fluid, and vivid, and makes great reading or singing.

It’s such a wonderful song that there are some fantastic covers by pop artists like James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg that have helped to make it popular well beyond the church. But my favorite version is probably by Shawn Colvin. There is something about her slightly plaintive voice that suits the mood of the song, so I’ll put a recording of her rendition the text. (Of course, there are some pretty awesome classical versions as well, like this one by the Gloucester Cathedral Choir and congregation.)

I will soon return to Pennsylvania and, much to the chagrin of my daughter, will likely not have a white, snowy, or particularly cold Christmas. But I will still sing this song with joy as I think about how God entered the bleak mid-winter of our souls not just once long ago but each time we are open to the grace and love of the Christ child for whose advent we prepare.

Blessed Advent. Blessed Christmas.


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.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
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.

Christina Rossetti, ca. 1871.

Notes: 1) If you are receiving this post by email, you may need to click here to watch (and listen to) the video. Shawn Colvin’s rendition is from her album Holiday Songs And Lullabies. Dan Fogelberg recorded his version on his album First Christmas Morning. And you can find James Taylor’s offering on his album James Taylor At Christmas.