This morning as I opened my blinds to allow the first light of day into the cozy yellow bedroom I was hopeful for sunshine. But as I pulled the string that opens my view to the world outside and gazed out the window at the gray day these words came to mind. “Snow had fallen, snow on snow.” They are from a Christmas poem by Christina Rossetti, In the Bleak Midwinter. I think this snowy gray February day resembles Miss Rossetti’s “Bleak Midwinter” better than any day in December when streets were lined with holiday cheer and every snowflake brings thoughts of “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” No one is ever going to sing “I’m Dreaming of a Snowy, Cold, Gray February.
Over the years I have sung multiple renditions of this poem put to various musical settings and never really given the words careful thought. Because the Lord opened the small book of poems stored in my mind to this one today I thought I would follow the inspiration down the path a bit and see if there was a message for me. I entered the few words I could remember and asked Mr. Google to help me find the text to the poem. He was successful. The poem is as follows:
In the Bleak Midwinter By Christina Rossetti
In the bleak midwinter, 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 midwinter, 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 midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, 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.
As I read carefully I knew there was meaning here for me and for others too. This is a poem for those of us who find ourselves in the wintery part of the day, the week, the month, the year, the life—for those of us who are out of money, out of energy, out of time, out of ideas, out of work, out of understanding, out of enthusiasm—the poor. We love the Lord. We long to contribute. We ache to somehow place something wonderful, just the right thing, on His altar—but how to give out of our emptiness? In this poem Miss. Rossetti is trying to help us understand that the Lord is not in great need of our great gifts. “A stable place sufficed…Breastfull of milk…manger of hay…The ox and ass and camel…a kiss.” These things were “Enough for Him.”
On this “Bleak Midwinter” day we are in possession of everything, the only thing, the Lord will ever desire of us—our hearts. That’s it. It’s the only property any of us truly own. Everything else is already His. And it is the most unique thing He will ever receive because my heart and your heart are each one of a kind. Having experimented with this principle I can share that no matter how bleak and poor things appear to be on the outside, giving the Lord a place to dwell inside—inside me—changes any gray, snowy, cold February day for the better. “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.” Well I’m not a shepherd or a wise man or any other thing. I’m just me, so “What can I give Him, poor as I am?” I can, “give my heart.” Happy February with its “snow on snow” and all!
*Works by Christina Rossetti published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain worldwide.
Copyright 2011 by Nannette W. All right reserved. Making or sending copies is permitted if the page is not changed in any way and the material is not used for profit. This notice must be included on each copy made or sent.
By Nannette W. Posted February 12, 2013