In the Bleak Midwinter

Read: Philippians 2:5-11

He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant. (v. 7 NIV)

Have you ever seen a painting of the manger scene by one of the Renaissance masters? The setting is clearly European, with Italian ruins or snow-covered German villages in the background. The poet Christina Rossetti does something similar, setting the Christmas story in her native England “in the bleak midwinter,” when “frosty wind made moan, / earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; / snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow.”

Of course, we don’t actually know when Jesus was born, not even the exact year let alone the season. And it is highly unlikely that the ground around Bethlehem was frozen solid and buried in snowdrifts on the first Christmas. But this much is true: God did enter our world in the dead of winter, symbolically speaking, when our prospects were bleak and hope seemed frozen.

What a comedown it was for him! In two lines Rossetti paints the contrast between the glory of the Son of God and the lowliness of the baby Jesus: In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed / the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Such condescension, such voluntary self-humbling by God, makes an impossible demand: what could we ever give in response? Rossetti’s answer is to give him my heart, which really means myself—all of me.

As you pray, give God your heart.

Listen along: In the Bleak Midwinter – Tenebrae Choir

About the Author

david bast

Rev. Dave Bast retired as the President and Broadcast Minister of Words of Hope in January 2017, after 23 years with the ministry. Prior to his ministry and work at Words of Hope, Dave served as a pastor for 18 years in congregations in the Reformed Church in America. He is the author of several devotional books. A graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, he has also studied at both the Fuller and Calvin seminaries. Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, have four children and four grandchildren. Dave enjoys reading, growing tomatoes, and avidly follows the Detroit Tigers.

This entry is part 9 of 25 in the series Carols and Lessons