In the Bleak Midwinter

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Though I'm sure I heard the Christmas song "In the Bleak Midwinter" sometime during the first three decades of my life, it never grabbed my attention until about twenty years ago. I had purchased a Windham Hill album, A Winter's Solstice III, and was listening to it for the first time. The thirteenth track was a haunting version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" by a singer named Pierce Pettis, with whom I was otherwise unfamiliar. Somehow, the combination of poetry and music touched my soul and this version of the classic song became one of my favorite Christmas carols.

Fast forward about two decades. As I was beginning my tenure at Laity Lodge, one of our retreats included Pierce Pettis as a musician. Before he sang, I did not recognize his name and thought I had never heard his music before. But, when he began to sing, I immediately recognized his distinctive voice. He was the one who had brought "In the Bleak Midwinter" to life for me, making it one of my favorite Christmas songs. I was pleased to be able to thank Pierce for enriching my life and deepening my devotion to Christ.

The lyrics of "In the Bleak Midwinter" were written by the nineteenth-century poet, Christina Rossetti. She envisions the birth of Jesus in the middle of a cold winter, noting that only his mother worshiped him with a kiss. This act of maternal love inspires Rossetti to conclude, "If I were a wise man, I would do my part. Yet what I can I give Him, give my heart."

What does it mean to give our heart to Jesus? There is no simple answer to this question. It can mean adoring him, being devoted to him, or asking him to be our Lord and Savior. Giving Jesus our heart can also mean surrendering to him, letting him reign over our lives. In Colossians 3:15, for example, the Apostle Paul urges: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." We invite the one who came bringing peace on earth to let his peace fill and govern our inner being.

QUESTION FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As we continue on in the twelve-day season of Christmas, are you giving your heart to Christ each day?


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.

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]

May I give you my heart today, Lord Jesus, as an act of worship and love. Let your peace rule over all of me today. Amen.

"In the Bleak Midwinter," by Christina Rossetti, 1872, verse 1, 2, 4, 5.

P.S. You can hear Pierce Pettis' stirring version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" in this video.