The poem/carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” is an homage to the lowly circumstances of Christ’s birth. Like the setting in everyone’s favorite fantasy gore-fest, Game of Thrones, the cold and humble stable where God’s son entered the world serves as a metaphor for a world of pain and bleakness.
This year, winter has come early and with a vengeance here in the Midwest. Only a couple of weeks into meteorological winter, Chicago already has about 10 inches of snow on the ground. In the next few days, temperatures are expected to plunge below zero. I’d say it’s more like a bleak early winter.
Already feeling a bit blue over the results of the presidential election and the horrid slew of Cabinet appointments by Donald Trump, I am in no mood to slog through the snow or face the bitter cold. Despite the twinkly Christmas lights that adorn houses and commercial buildings, I just can’t get my merry on.
Christmas is a difficult time for many people. The poor, the sick, the lonely, and the homeless all suffer from want in the midst of plenty. Those who recently lost a loved one can’t help but compare this year’s emptiness with last year’s cheer. Depression hits many at this time of year, and some of us are emotionally affected by the lack of daylight.
As I see it, the only way to shake the melancholy is to take the focus off myself and give it to others. Making the effort to smile and be kind to harried shopkeepers and other service personnel; placing an extra dollar or two into the tip jars of those who help us all year; participating in toy, clothing, and food drives; staying in touch with friends and family: All are good ways to banish the cold that creeps into our winter hearts.
The last stanza of Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” goes:
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.
No matter what our circumstances this Christmas season, our love for others is a gift that keeps on giving. And it’s the one gift that we feel lucky when it’s returned.