21 December 2010

a stable-place sufficed

Tonight is the longest night of the year, the kind of night that makes you think phrases like "dark night of the soul" while you pull a blanket around you and try to figure out how to drink wine and simultaneously keep your arms under the blanket where it's warm.

{Idea: Use one of those beer hat things, those contraptions made for frat boys at football games. Or perhaps rednecks while deer hunting, I don't know. It does free up your hands, but I think sipping a Medoc out of a straw descending from a trucker hat might—perhaps—cut down on the classy factor of feeling very introspective and yet connected to humanity here on the longest night.}

{Idea Again: Have wine before crawling under blanket. Because wine is, apparently, essential for me in this scenario.}

Tonight also makes me think of that Christina Rosetti poem "In the Bleak Midwinter," even though midwinter is technically February, that most horrific and draining of months.

My choir sang that song at our Christmas concert a few weeks ago. I love those clear, cold lines Christina wrote—letting us sing about how Heaven couldn't hold Jesus any more and so he came here to a stable-place {that hyphen makes a difference, doesn't it? Without it, it says that Jesus came to a stable world, when really he came to bring stability to our instability.}

But as much as I adore that song, it has always bothered me that Christmas isn't in the midwinter; it's barely in winter. {As a sidenote: yes, I understand that Christmas is essentially a made-up date, and no, we don't know that Jesus' birthday was December 25. I don't think they had a month called December back then.}

Winter starts today, and so by the time the real midwinter comes, I'm a bit worn jagged by the frosty winds and snow falling, snow on snow. {You may have been able to guess that's how I feel by February, given how I described it above.}

Weather terminology aside, it's the emotion of midwinter that Rosetti was going for, of course. That irrational fear that spring will never come again, that you will never be warm again, that flowers will forget how to grow.

In the midwinter, you focus on the darkness, and so "In the Bleak Midwinter," Rosetti is telling us—remember those dark nights of your soul? Remember when you weren't sure if any happiness could take root in your heart? Remember when it seemed like the black around you would not end?

And then think of the light, the light you know is coming.

Tonight is the longest night of the year, which means that tomorrow night will be a minute or two shorter. And the next night a minute or two shorter than that. On and on until it's that time again when you can take a walk at 9 at night and still be in the light.

Christmas comes just at that time when the night is starting to turn into day. How fitting. What a thing to celebrate. Perhaps with wine.

In the Bleak Midwinter
Christina Rosetti

In the bleak mid-winter
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 mid-winter
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 mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
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.

1 comment:

  1. I agree on the appropriateness of Christmas coming as the light grows longer in our days. Thanks for that.



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