In the Bleak Mid-Winter – Christina Rossetti

A Christmas Carol

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 Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894)

Christina Rossetti was asked to write a Christmas poem for a magazine and so she had to consider the audience and clearly she has stayed true to the traditional Christmas story. And quite clearly she has but poetic thought in creating five eight line stanzas with rhyme and rhythm. So much so that her words have been used to create one of the most popular Christmas carols and the first line ‘in the bleak mid-winter’ has become well known.

S1 – she lived in London so snow and a winter Christmas was synonymous. Winter is always an appropriate setting for the coming of Christ … for the birth of redemption in a cold hard bleak world. And looking back on 2015 it doesn’t take much to see that a little bleakness is in evidence.

S2 – in this stanza there is an interpretation of biblical passages so Christina must have been familiar with her bible – the first four lines of the stanza are questioned in the analysis in Wikipedia (see the footnote below) … the lines ‘Heaven and earth shall flee away / When He comes to reign’ suggest a second coming – but who has any idea how this will manifest itself! Perhaps a daughter will be sent next time, that would show a nice balance between the sexes.

S3 – I have always liked the humble beginnings and the makeshift environment for the arrival of the most powerful entity imaginable.

S4 – of all the people and paraphernalia around the stable it is the mother Mary who truly worships the new born with a kiss. Whether or not He cried when He was born we do not know – perhaps it would be quite poetic and very appropriate if he had.

cherubim = angel, chubby-faced child
seraphim = an angel of the highest order of nine rankings

S5 – this shows a personal identity with Jesus … and if we have any understanding of the Christ gift in its unimaginable enormity then there is only one gift in return – it costs of course.

May you appreciate your gifts this Christmas and enjoy with family and friends.

Here is a You Tube recording of the carol sung by Susan Boyle

Footnote …

From Wikipedia … Wikipedia Analysis

‘Hymnologist and theologian Ian Bradley has questioned the poem’s theology: “Is it right to say that heaven cannot hold God, nor the earth sustain, and what about heaven and earth fleeing away when he comes to reign?”[3] However I Kings 8.27, in Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple, says: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.” Regarding “heaven and earth fleeing away”, many New Testament apocalyptic passages use such language, principally Revelation 20. 11 “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them” (KJV). Similar language is used in II Peter 3. 10-11: “The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire… That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (NIV).’

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