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.
—In the Bleak Midwinter
Do you like winter? Perhaps it depends on where you were raised. I grew up, went to school and spent 14 years working in climates where winter is a significant season. Now, as a central Virginia transplant, I'm still trying to understand why winter is fussed over the way that it is. No one can drive or go to school when it snows. It's fascinating to me, but I'm starting to get used to the idea.
Christina Rossetti's poem, from which we get our hymn In the Bleak Midwinter, paints quite a vivid picture of the harshness of winter in her opening lines. 'Moan,' 'hard as iron,' 'like a stone'—it all sounds very painful, or should I say 'bleak.'
When we carry out our sinful lives, without recognition of a Savior, we create a similarly bleak picture for ourselves. Sin makes us miserable! It makes us hard, icy hard. It makes our hearts hardened to seeing any other life beyond the one that we're trying to make for ourselves.
But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.The children of Israel were so stuck in their sin that God had to discipline them. They were no longer in one place, because He scattered them all over the world.
"'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty. 'I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.'"
I like Matthew Henry's commentary on this passage. He says, "Nothing is harder than the heart of a presumptuous sinner (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible). Israel was "wise in its own eyes" and didn't understand that their sin was pushing them further and further away from their loving Father.
"Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool."
Sin doesn't make God happy. In fact, sin, by definition, is that which separates us from God. A holy God and a sinful people cannot have a relationship. God knows that, and He loves us so much that He did something about it—the only thing He could do.
Brightly shone the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel.
—Good King Wenceslas
As you know, God sent Jesus! There was nothing that a sinful, fallen, frosty cruel world could do on its own power or merit, but Jesus, the Savior, could save His people from their sins. That's why He's named Jesus (Matthew 1:21). He would bear the sins of the world, even unto His own death, so that we could once again have a relationship with God and, one day, stand before Him, snow white as an angel!
But, it's not enough that God sent Jesus. We have to receive Him, and we have to pray in confession for His forgiveness. Not that we have to wait for it, like snow in central Virginia. Jesus told us to pray for it. And He will cast it out of us, as far as the east is from the west, and remember it no more.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in.
—O Little Town of Bethlehem
So, while the winter may be harsh, it is not without its quiet beauty, as in the snow which falls from Heaven—a reminder of God's forgiveness and fresh start through His Son, Jesus.
But as long as You love me so
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
—Let It Snow
Jesus—Not just the reason for the season,
but our eternal season of reason.
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