Every year in towns and cities across the United Kingdom, there is a familiar sight, or more accurately, a familiar sound. Salvation Army brass bands up and down the country dig out their carol books, pile on layers of thermal underwear and venture out into the cold to play Christmas carols. Since I was a child, I have been part of this tradition. I've trudged my way through the second horn part of Silent Night (which basically consists of two notes), whizzed through the first horn part of Jingle Bells and enjoyed the randomness of the flugel horn part in…well...most carols actually!
Now that I sit in the congregation rather than in the band, my focus has shifted from the music to the lyrics. Taking time to read through the words of familiar carols, I've been able to hone in on specific verses and individual phrases that I've not focused on before. In each Christmas Short, I'll be sharing my thoughts on familiar carols, revisiting the words from a different vantage point.
“In the bleak midwinter…”
This beautiful carol is often chosen as a favourite for both its melody and lyrics but I need to confess that I struggle with the first verse. I know from past experience that it can feel pretty bleak when it’s so cold that your valves have stopped working and you’re trying to get through Praise Ye the Lord (Hail Smiling Morn) while standing in a wind tunnel outside John Lewis. My slight problem with this carol is that even in December the average temperature in Bethlehem is 15-25℃, not exactly bleak! Due to the lack of google in 1872, I will forgive Christina Rossetti and turn my attention to the final verse.
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 can I give Him -
Give my heart.
In last year’s Christmas Shorts I confessed that this season had gradually lost its sparkle for me. Rather than a time of celebration, I had started to associate it with stress and busyness.
This year I am trying hard to make a different choice.
In preparation for Christmas, I prayed the words of David in Psalm 139:23-24:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
As God searched my heart, he reflected back to me some of the areas that needed a little care and attention…well, actually a lot of care and attention. He gently showed me that I had let myself become frustrated with everything that needs to be done at this time of year and was losing the joy He wants me to fully experience. He pointed out that hurt and resentment accumulated throughout 2017 had caused my heart to harden in the places where I had chosen not to forgive others or refused to ask for forgiveness myself. To truly “give my heart” and worship the “beloved” (see verse 3), I have spent time taking care of my gift and am starting to see this season in a different light.
How about you?
What is the condition of your heart this Christmas?