Gabriel's Horn, Pastor George Weaver, December, 2018

posted Nov 30, 2018, 4:27 PM by Lois Kerchner

The Warmth of Christmas

Two beautiful Christmas songs included in the current UM Hymnal were authored by Christina G. Rossetti. This 19th century English poet and writer of prose suffered poor health from the age of 16, and found solace in her writing until the time of her death from cancer on December 29, 1894, at 64 years of age.

'In the Bleak Midwinter' is probably Christina Rossetti's most famous hymn poem, though not necessarily the one most recognizable as being written by her. That would be her other hymn related to Jesus' birth included in our hymnal entitled 'Love Came Down at Christmas.' I have liked both of these carols for as long as I can remember, and if forced to choose which I like better, would probably go along with the one most highly favored in general, which would have to be 'In the Bleak Midwinter.'

Originally published as a poem in Scribner's Monthly in January 1872, under the title 'A Christmas Carol,” it has come to be known as a song, or carol, that is now universally called 'In the Bleak Midwinter.' While the opening stanza and its opening line in particular have become world-famous, the rest of the composition is definitely more obscure.

Although we all recognize “In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago,' other lines and verses may be much less familiar. Here's a line from a stanza often omitted altogether which you probably will not recognize: “Enough for Him, whom angels fall before, the ox and ass and camel which adore.”

Rossetti's opening line and verse remains so striking partly due to the simplicity of the words. None of the words are longer than two syllables, except for 'midwinter,' which is repeated in the opening and closing line of verse one. Rossetti uses simple language and has a simple message, though her use of language and the places where she puts the emphasis are often surprising. 'In the Bleak Midwinter' may be most familiar to us being sung by a choir during the Christmas Season, yet we should keep in mind the beautiful words of Christina Rossetti, which inspired this famous Christmas carol that we, and indeed the whole world, have come to know and love.

I have been including a monthly message in the church newsletter for a dozen years or so. At the end of 2018, that will be coming to an end. Oh, I might still occasionally be contributing something for Gabriel's Horn, but I will no longer be a regular monthly contributor in the new year. Which is to say that as of 2019, I will be retiring from this ongoing monthly column in the church newsletter, and in addition will no longer be acting in the official capacity of the Pastor of Maturing Ministries.

This does not mean, however, that I am now expecting to disappear completely any time in the immediate future. It just means that I will be functioning in a slightly less visible role than heretofore. Very few things stay the same forever. But it will always be appropriate to express wishes for the celebration of a warm and blessed Advent     and Christmas Season.

George Weaver, Pastor of Maturing Ministries