Although the hymn In the Bleak Midwinter is usually sung near Christmas, it seems more appropriate now, when true mid-winter is established. Frozen snow piles continue to line our routes, dark with grit and sand; the wind howls through our window panes in the night’s deep watches; and cold, cold air greets us each day and evening, making us long to see the sun tomorrow. In this mid-winter, although we are in Epiphany, the season of Light, Christmas can feel very long ago as we sojourn from day to day.
But for children, time passes in a different way. Children are cosmic and philosophical, and easily operate outside the times and spaces that confine adults. This was evidenced at a recent prayer time in the Atrium. As I invited the children to consider whether they had thanks to give to God, someone stated the above grace: “I’m thankful to God that Jesus was born at Christmas, when it was his birthday.”
The child then seemed to ponder the realization that he was happy today for something that was not happening today, but had already happened. To him, the birth seemed immediate.
Usually when the children have shared something profound, catechists realize it in the week or weeks that follow. In this case, I had not long to wait. The very next morning I was on the bus, jostling out to Cambridge, finishing A Wreath of Christmas Poems
I had tucked into my backpack. This small anthology includes a poem by local bard John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Mystic’s Christmas.” Two stanzas:
But now beyond the things of sense
Beyond occasions and events,
I know, through God’s exceeding grace,
Release from form and time and place.
Keep while you need it, brothers mine,
With honest zeal your Christmas sign,
But judge not him who every morn
Feels in his heart the Lord Christ born!
May we learn to keep the miracle of Christmas ever near, “every morn” –as these youngest do with such joy.