Rector's Reflections - 29 November

Rector’s Reflections  

Wednesday 29th November 2023

Preparing for Advent

In yesterday’s reflections, I referred to a short poem written by Christina Rossetti, which starts with the line : “Love came down at Christmas”.  Today I wish to look at another of Christina’s poems – a poem which has become much better known than “Love came down at Christmas”.

The poem in question is “In the bleak mid-winter”.  This poem starts with the well-known opening verse : “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 midwinder, long ago.” I wonder if you remember the final verse? It runs as follows :  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”.

The phrase “give my heart” brings to my mind the Latin phrase : cor ad cor loquitur.  This phrase was the motto of Cardinal Newman, the great 19th Century theologian and spiritual writer, and it can be translated into English as “heart speaks to heart”, or “heart speaks unto heart”.  For Cardinal Newman, the Christian faith is all about a deep, honest, and searching friendship between ourselves and God – a mutual relationship of trust and love, in which our heart speaks to God, and God’s heart speaks to us.

Christmas is a time when God wishes to speak to us , heart to heart. It is a time when God is reaching out to us and to our world in love. He is giving us His heart, hoping that we will give God our heart in return. “If I were a wise man, I would do my part, yet what I can I give him : give my heart”.

But do we want to give God our heart? Perhaps we want to continue to keep God at a distance. We may be frightened of Him, or frightened at what He might think of our many failings.  Or it might be that we realise that if we were to give God our heart, we would no longer be the masters of our own destiny : we would have to be open to God’s agenda, and allow ourselves to be influenced and perhaps even directed by His will for our lives.

God does n’t force us to respond to his offer of love : we can choose to ignore it, if we wish to do so.  We can be like King Herod, and allow our response to Jesus to be dictated by fear. Or we can be like the Wise Men, whose openness to God led them to undertake the long journey to Bethlehem.  It’s up to us.

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