First United Methodist Church

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Devotion: In the Bleak Midwinter

It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that I know NOTHING about a Bleak Mid-winter. I am a Florida Girl through and through and while I have experienced snow and colder conditions on a brief occasion, I can’t even begin to picture how I would do in a midwinter storm. The only thing that came close to this was when we were first married and living in Atlanta in our last year of graduate school at Emory when Snowpacalypse 2011 happened and Ryan and I couldn’t go to all of our January term classes because there was ice on the road and no one knew how to drive on ice in Atlanta. And this was before Zoom, so our classes were condensed and we missed the last 4 days of class. We used that time to have a Harry Potter movie marathon, and when the ice melted down enough, we drove up to Cataloochee and had our first ski trip as a married couple.

But the point is this, I have no idea how I would survive a Midwinter season when frosty wind was moaning, water was frozen like a stone and the earth was hard as iron. I can’t imagine this world physically, but if I look at the lyrics of this song through a spiritual len, I can begin to imagine the darkness and starkness of a world without the light of Christ.

The words remind us, that in the bleakest of days, warmth and light and goodness entered the world. In the midst of the water standing still, the giver of Living Water came into being. And when the oppression and humiliation of another conquered people group cried out to Creator God, the most helpless and vulnerable being came to save them all.

But they didn’t notice because all they saw was the bleak mid-winter.

On the day when love came down, heavenly beings travelled to praise God and to give witness to this event; all angels and arc angels and Cherubim and Seraphims were present, but that wasn’t what the God of the universe required of us. Surprisingly so, God was satisfied simply with the kiss of his mother, the humility of a shepherd, the determination of the wise men. And what is it that God asks of us…only our hearts.

The song ends by asking this question, “What can I give him?” and I have wondered that question before as well. With all that God has given and continues to give me, what can I give back in return for that love? The song answers the question with the image of giving our heart back to God, but I think God deserves more. I want to give God my whole self, mind, soul, demeanor, future plans, convictions, energy, passion…I want to give my all, but I am far from perfect and far from sinless. But the song has good news about this too. But we may look around and see only snow covering the grounds of our frozen parts that used to be lively, foundations now hard as iron unyielding and ungracious and we may quite honestly feel like our spiritual life is like a mid-winter and it is oh so bleak.

But there is good news, God meets us there and prepares us in this season because Spring always follows winter. And so I don’t know where you are in this season as you wait for the Christ-child, but I want to remind you that God wants all of you and all of me and especially our hearts. If we come and bring what we can with curiosity and wonder, see what God does with our bleak Mid-Winter storms when we simply open ourselves to be shaped in one season so that we can be ready for the next.