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In the Bleak Midwinter

Each year, people across the globe gather together to sing Christmas carols. Christians and non-Christians alike, we sing from the same catalogue of tunes that have been around for decades. But how many of us effortlessly sing the well-known lyrics without paying particular attention to their meaning?

Perhaps one of the most controversial carols for theological correctness, In the Bleak Midwinter started out as a poem named "A Christmas Carol." Penned by Christina Rossetti, it was first published in Scribner’s Monthly in January 1872. In 1906 it was set to music by Gustav Holst and this version is virtually the same version we sing today.

The last verse of this carol resonates with me every year, and has even been the subject of the Queen's Christmas Speech:

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.

At the time In the Bleak Midwinter was written, women were rarely employed in professional occupations or held any form of higher education. Unlike the shepherds, Christina Rossetti was not employed, and unlike the wise men, she had no university degree. And yet, Rossetti concludes at the end of her poem that the most important thing we can offer Jesus is our hearts.

It is so easy to expect to need some sort of qualification in order to serve Jesus. It is easy to belittle ourselves, tell ourselves we aren't good enough, that someone else would do it better. But Jesus never expects any of that - all He asks is that we give Him our hearts and He will sort out the rest.

The wise men knew that their gifts would serve a purpose for Jesus. And likewise, we all have gifts that we can use to honour and serve Christ. Although we may not be able to give a lamb or expensive gifts, giving our hearts to Jesus is the greatest gift we could ever give Him.

May you have a peaceful Christmas and a blessed New Year.



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