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December 22, 2010

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.

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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Christina Rosetti nailed it with her 1872 poem.  The “bleak midwinter” is not a season of the year, or a particularly bad spate of winter weather.  It refers to the grim and frozen state of mankind without a Savior.  The Savior Jesus Christ is central to the Plan of Salvation, and without Him, His sacrificial blood and Example, the whole of creation would have been plunged into entropy, fragmented and collapsed as element and spirit alike would vanish into the oblivion of futility.  Bleak, hopeless, lost, and without purpose or end.

But the Son of God came to Earth, and found a stable-place sufficient for His majestic birth.  Through His condescension to the children of men, He made the humble and meek sublime, and ventured below all things to lift us up on His kingly shoulders.

What can I give the King of Kings?  The traditional reciprocity of gift-giving falls pathetically short of what I owe to The Lord for what He has given to me.  He has given me a second chance, indeed thousands of second chances, to learn and correct my errors and evils.  He has given me a second birth.  He has given me His name.  He has given me the promise of immortality and the hope of Eternal Life.  I have nothing of worldly value to offer the One who has snatched me from the doom of death and eternal darkness.  Nothing I can hold in my hands can express my gratitude, my love, and my complete dependence upon Him.

Dependence is a subject I often broach in my writing.  I am, after all, a New American Feminist, a Conservative, a Tea Party activist, a very independent girl.  The Declaration of Independence is the cornerstone of my political philosophy.  I disdain dependence upon government, and even excessive dependence upon non-governmental organizations for those who are able-bodied and would benefit from the self-efficacy of doing for themselves.  But I am totally, yes totally, dependent upon The Lord for all that I have, and all that I want to become.  You see, to say that He sacrificed Himself for the sins of the World is to oversimplify the core theme of  human existence.  It is through Him, and Him alone, His merits and mercy, that the Children of God have any chance of all at attaining a state of happiness here and in the eternities.  We can be perfected through Jesus Christ but we can’t do it ourselves, no matter how “perfectly” we perform.  It is a mistake to think that we can be saved by the quality of our character or our works.  We must fall on our knees and acknowledge our complete dependence on Him, in a partnership which, through yielding our power and will to Him, we are given the power to progress and become like Him.

Helplessness, however, is not a feature of dependence upon Christ.  He gives us the tools we need to do what we are asked to do as we fulfill our probation on Earth.  We have His Gospel, we have the influence of His spirit, and His words.  We are all given the Light of Christ in the form of a human conscience.  We are not helpless, but we depend upon Jesus Christ to show us the way, and pay, through Grace, the price we can never afford.

The historic Provo Tabernacle, an edifice built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1883, was gutted by a massive blaze on December 18 of this year.   Though it was not a Mormon Temple, the LDS people in Provo, Utah dearly loved this imposing and artful building.  The Provo Tabernacle was primarily a place for meetings, adorned with pictures from Bible stories and church history, many of which were portraits of Jesus Christ.  The mayor of Provo, accompanied by an investigative crew, surveyed the charred remains of the Tabernacle the next day.  They found a portrait of Jesus Christ which depicts His Second Coming to Earth.  The portrait is fully charred, except for the area around His image in the painting.  Immediately around the head and body of the Savior is a corona of clean canvas.  It is an amazing token, taken from the ashes of a physical structure, which, depending upon the heart of the viewer, testifies of Christ’s power to rise again, and to give hope and inspiration to all who will pay attention.

The ash heap is symbolic of the doom of mankind if we did not have a Savior to depend on.  All would wither  into the fundamental elements, our lives but a brief and tearful smolder, passing into nothing.  But we have a Heavenly Father and He has a plan.  And a babe in a manger holds the keys of death, hell, exaltation, and eternal life, contingent upon the the use of our moral agency.   What can I give the Babe?  The treasures of the Earth will be corrupted and decay.  The acts of my hands alone are insufficient because I am fundamentally fallen and unworthy, an obdurate sinner.  I have only my heart to give.  It is all that I am.  It is my kindness, my gratitude, my compassion, my acts of charity, the Pure Love of Christ.  My heart is my fidelity and integrity, my devotion to be a good citizen, even in the littlest things.  It is my temperance and firmness as a parent, it is the leap of faith each time I take the risk of following my heart.  My heart is my commitment to try to do better each day, but not to carry with me the burden of perfection, because when I am certain that I can do no thing perfectly, I am less likely to condemn my fellow travelers, whose footsteps stumble along their designed path.  My heart, my love, and my testimony that He lives; that is what I can give for Christmas to the Babe in the manger.

In the Bleak Mid-Winter Kiri Te-Kanawa

Historic Provo Tabernacle burns

Scorched portrait of Christ with His image intact

Away in a Manger NRO

Why This Orthodos Jew Loves Christmas NRO

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