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In the bleak midwinter

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

I’m missing my writer’s ears and eyes in this pandemic. I’m missing those overheard snatches of conversation in the swimming pool (I told her to leave him but she won’t listen!), those chance encounters in a coffee shop (She’ll feel a lot better when she gets the results), that conversation on the bus (I didn’t want to have him put to sleep but what can you do?).

I’m missing kneeling at the altar, the taste of the wine. I’m missing singing ‘O come O come Emmanuel’ lustily with a hundred other people and then standing around in twos and threes over a cuppa and a biscuit just catching up.

These moments are the writer’s ears and eyes. This is the fuel which fires the engine, which makes the creative cogs and pistons turn and produce writing which satisfies.

I wanted to write about the nativity this week. I wanted to write at length about how St Francis created a real nativity scene in a cave in Greccio, a little village not far from Rome. He wanted ordinary people to understand the mystery of Christ’s birth. Full of excitement he invited people, real live people to take the major parts and cajoled animals, an ox, a donkey and sheep to join them in the stable. This was the nativity as it may have looked to a casual observer in Bethlehem, just over a thousand years earlier. This wasn’t a sanitised, twinkly-lights and tinsel sort of event. It would have been raw and smelly and noisy, God incarnate in the mess of the world bringing the hope of the world.

But my writing bones are weary and the words won’t come. My writer’s ears are deaf and my writer’s eyes are dim. And I know that if I force these weary bones to walk, then the words will grate and not sing.

And so, I will leave the saying to one of the best – Christina Rossetti with her matchless description of the wonder of Christ’s incarnation. I think Francis would have liked this poem.

And I wish you all a very happy and healthy Christmas and I will see you in the New Year…

In the bleak midwinter

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, 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 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.

Christina Rossetti


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