Carol In the bleak midwinter (Christina Rossetti 1830-1894)
… 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.
Today’s beautiful poem-carol lays out three different reactions to the arrival of God. The earth is hard, unresponsive, cold and bleak; the heavens are ablaze with angels singing “Holy, Holy, Hallelujahs”; but the mother of God holds the baby and kisses him.
You don’t need to be high and holy to worship God, says Christina Rossetti. Be like Mary. Open your heart and love him.
Reading (Luke 2:28-32)
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’
Reflection (by Sally Phillips)
There is an embrace in today’s reading, too. Mary and Joseph have taken baby Jesus to the temple when they are stopped by an old man, Simeon. God has promised him that he will see the Messiah before he dies and he has been waiting a long time.
It probably didn’t look like much to bystanders – an old man, exclaiming over a baby – but Simeon had hoped and prayed for this day for many years. He trusted God and now God trusts him to hold him gently in his arms. Cradling the light of the world to his heart, Simeon explodes with praise. It didn’t look like much, but Simeon was the first person to recognise Jesus for who he truly was.
From trust, trust grows, and from love flow expressions of love – dramatic and imperceptible – which can bring life to the bleakest of winters.
What can I give him? Your heart. Love him and others, it might feel like nothing, but as they say, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in bed with a mosquito.”
Take a moment today to sit still and ask God to come to you.
Imagine opening your own arms to hold the baby Jesus yourself and be aware of how your heart feels as you do so.
God of all the world, help us to live today with Simeon’s faith and Mary’s love, that with gentleness and courage we may give freely to others as you have given freely to us.