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'In the bleak midwinter'

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

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At the end of this year's unusually long season of fall colors in New England, my co-workers and I enjoyed the lingering splash of brilliantly colored pear trees on a city street outside our office window.

Suddenly, a fierce November wind tore the color from before our eyes and left the scene barren and foreboding. We were chilled not only by that biting wind but by the prospect of four or five months of icy winter weather. Everything looked so gray.

The words of one of my favorite Christmas carols, based on a poem by Christina Rossetti, came to mind, and I shuddered again:

In the bleak midwinter,
frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone;

How could that be one of my favorites? I wondered - unless it's the beauty of the setting by Gustav Holst and the flawless rendering by the choristers of King's College Chapel, Cambridge, that get to me. I'm probably being carried away by my sentimental attachment to a tune and a choir.

Since then, I have been rescued from the winter blahs by an excerpt from another poem - one that draws me into an embrace that always leaves me feeling stronger, fired up, and joyful:

So, when day grows dark and cold, Tear or triumph harms,
Lead Thy lambkins to the fold, Take them in Thine arms;

Mary Baker Eddy wrote those words about God as Shepherd. They point to the unfailing love and protection God bestows on all His creation.

While I prayed with this poem, I broadened its message to include people of all races, cultures, and faiths. I affirmed that everyone can be guided safely through the vicissitudes of life - and all weathers ("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 304).

This turned my anxiety about rocketing heating bills into a confident awareness that in the Shepherd's "fold," no one can lack warmth or comfort. And, thinking of a phone call I'd just received from a daughter of mine in South Africa, I added coolness to that list. She is getting ready to celebrate Christmas in summer sunshine, but has anxieties of her own.

"It's the drought," she explained. "How are we going to save our crops without rain? The sun's so hot, I can't let the children play out of doors. And it's too expensive to keep running the air conditioner indoors."

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