Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In the bleak midwinter ...

The temperature here this morning is minus-17 --- the coldest Christmas Eve in my memory; and with 8 or so inches of newly fallen snow on the ground, a flawlessly classic Iowa presentation.

I drove away from a holiday gathering down along the South Chariton about 4:30 yesterday afternoon, when the sun was low in the west and the quality of the light, extraordinary. Turning east to begin the steep descent through woodland to the river bridge --- the creek cuts deeply here --- the view was so stunning I just stopped. Evening sun highlighted snow-frosted trees on both sides of the road, just cleared that morning, and  illuminated the crest of the hill beyond, deep shadows in the valley below. 

It's going to be a busy day, filled with errands. Then we'll get together at St. Andrew's at 6 this evening for lessons and carols, followed by a simple supper of soup, bread and whatever else comes along. All are welcome. There will be plenty to eat.

Ordinarily, we do this service, patterned after a Christmas Eve classic in the chapel at Kings College, Cambridge, on the first or second Sunday in Advent with our friends from First Lutheran. But this year, we had an ordination on the Saturday before the logical Sunday and just couldn't pull both off.

So we decided to do it on Christmas Eve. There will be fewer people, considering holiday schedules and the weather --- more light snow is in the forecast --- but the carols and the lessons will be the same.

If you'd care to listen to this year's service broadcast live from the Kings College Chapel, you should be able to do so on American Public Radio at 9 (central time) this morning. I generally listen to the classical feed from Minnesota Public Radio, so here's the link I'm familiar with.

The carol here, one of my favorites, is not on our program this evening although it is some years, but it seems especially appropriate today. The words are by Christina Rossetti and the setting, by Gustav Holst.

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 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.

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