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.
Historical accuracy can be a wonderful thing, but there are moments when we make ourselves slaves to it. No, the Magi didn’t visit Christ the same night He was born. And no, we can’t be certain that He was born in the dead of night. And it couldn’t have happened in winter, since the shepherds were out in the fields instead of huddled inside their own stable.
But that’s not really the point of our Christmas carols. The point is to show, in poetry, the full meaning of the Incarnation. Jesus was born precisely when hope was almost non-existent. The promises made to Israel of a Messiah were in the distant past, and God had not sent a true prophet in four centuries. Rome had occupied Judea and false saviours made vain attempts at revolution. For some of the Jews, it must have seemed as if God had abandoned them to the chaos of the world’s sin. That was the moment in history when God chose to come to Earth.
Ever since the Fall, no human being has been truly free. Like a day that dawns cloudy, His face has been hidden from most of us. We are separated from Him by a wall made of the consequences of our own choices. Even now after the first coming of the Saviour, the world is cold and dark and lost in a bleak midwinter.
But the good news is that the world is not doomed. And there are moments when the veil between Heaven and Earth is thin, when we can see and hear God as a piercing light in the darkness. The first Christmas was just such a time. It marks that point when God began His work of restoring the world that broke with the Fall away from Heaven. The Crucifixion and Resurrection may be the crux on which everything turns, but they cannot happen without the Incarnation. Christmas has no meaning without Easter. Easter is impossible without Christmas. It isn’t the achievement of salvation, but the light is beginning to dawn. We are halfway out of the dark.
May God bless you and give you the peace that is not dependent on your circumstances, but only on His grace.