When I think of Christmas as a child, I think of Carols by Candlelight. Each year, our family would walk to the church in our village in the dark – beside the frozen reservoir, then up the hill. When we got there they would be lighting candles at the end of every pew. And then the lights went off, and there was nothing but their flickering and the pastel glow of the Christmas tree. One year my sister had a bug, so I just went with my dad. I remember holding his hand and it starting to snow as we walked there. His favourite carol was always ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’.
He died at Christmas eight years ago. Just a couple of days afterwards, on Christmas Eve, the village carol singers came round. They knew we were grieving and didn’t want to disturb us, but sang ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ in our yard, in memory of my father. I was sat in the dark by the window, listening, tears sluicing down my face. I will never forget the kindness of their song, and its beauty, despite everything.
So here is the poem that carol is based on, in memory of my dad. Wishing you all a happy Christmas with those you love.
In the bleak mid-winter
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.
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 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
By Christina Rossetti