pastoral/spiritual care

In the Bleak Midwinter

We often expect the holiday season to be like something out of an old movie.  But that doesn’t mean that bad things stop happening.  The hospital is still full of sick people, who would certainly rather be home with their families at that time of year.  Accidents, acts of violence, and sudden illnesses continue to keep the emergency room busy even in December.  For many people, this year is the first holiday after the loss of a loved one, and his or her absence is keenly felt at family gatherings.  For others, there will be fewer gifts for the holiday festivities because the loss of a job has necessitated a tighter budget.  Unfortunately, the tough realities of life don’t take the holidays off. 

But the good news is, God doesn’t take a vacation, either.  In fact, some of God’s best work seems to happen in the most difficult times.  I was reminded of this by a child in our church’s Christmas play one year, and the singing of a beautiful song that gets a lot less attention than the bubblier Christmas tunes.

“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.”

To hear Christina Rosetti’s vivid words, set to the haunting music by Gustav Holst, was jarring amid all the talk of joy and ringing bells and singing angels.  The little girl in the play, however, told her mother that she had learned the song from her teacher at school, who explained to the students that God is not just about sunshine and parties.  It is in the cold, dark winter days of our lives, she said, that we often see God’s work most clearly.  The second verse of the song goes on to say that it was into this frozen, hardened, bleak world that Jesus came.  He was, Christians believe, an expression of God’s love like no other, given at a time when the weary world so desperately needed it – not on a beautiful summer’s day, but in the bleak mid-winter of life.

God, we give thanks for your love that is just as present in our winter storms as on the sunny days.  Help us to see you at work in the difficult situations of our lives, and to trust that you are there even when we can’t see it.  Amen.

-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent


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