In the Bleak Midwinter (Advent #2)

Warning: random collection of thoughts.
Today is the second Sunday of Advent.

I went to St. Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral for Lessons and Carols this week. It was the first time I’d been inside of that beautiful building. One of the carols they sang is, for some reason, a favourite of mine. It is not one of the more popular carols and the first verse doesn’t seem to have much to do Christmas other than snow (which we don’t even get in Victoria).

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.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

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.


– words by Christina Rossetti

I love the carols that are a slightly minor key (O Come, O Come Emmanuel) or are about things other than wisemen and shepherds, angels and cute babies. Not that there is anything wrong with angels and wisemen, I just seem to get tired of those much sooner than I do the other ones.  The carols I am constantly drawn to are the old English ones like the Sussex, Coventry, and Wessex Carols. The minor ones like O Come O Come Emmanuel, Ready My Heart, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, and In the Bleak Midwinter. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they didn’t get sung over and over in Christmas Pagents when I was a kid. Maybe it is the lyrics. 
There is something about the mystery of anticipation that is attractive and in the advent carols it rings loud and clear. This attraction is the reason I love advent so much. If we always had everything figured out, there would be no need to have a period of anticipation and expectation to “Ready our hearts for the birth of Emmanuel.” But we need the time to prepare.  And we don’t know what to expect.  Each year brings new surprises and new events (as the last week in politics has shown us…) to challenge us.  We have this gift of time to prepare; lets not be caught unawares.
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