Encouragement From The Word

Don’t hide your ‘alleluias’

The English poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) wrote prolifically, and focused frequently on her vibrant faith.  An Oxford Movement Anglican, she often structured her poetry around the Christian year.

Here is one of her poems for Lent, the season which, this year, began on Wednesday of this week.

It is good to be last not first,

            Pending the present distress;

It is good to hunger and thirst,

            So it be for righteousness.

It is good to spend and be spent,

            It is good to watch and to pray:

Life and Death make a goodly Lent

            So it leads us to Easter Day.

What strikes me about that poem is the very last line.  It reminds us of the purpose of Lent.  It is not an end in itself, nor is it some sort of religious diet or austerity plan.  It is a means to an end.  Lent is designed to prepare us for Easter.

Just as a measured celebration of Advent makes Christmas more special, so too does Lent, celebrated appropriately, make Easter more meaningful.  By “celebrated appropriately”, one could mean any number of things, but at the very least, it means remembering that there are but 40 days in Lent:  Sundays are not included.  Each Sunday remains a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.  There is no reason to hide our ‘alleluias’ on those Sundays, because each Lord’s Day is a reminder that the Lord is risen.

So, be last and not first; hunger and thirst; spend and be spent – as long as it leads to Easter Day.  The story ends well, indeed, victoriously!  Keep that end in mind, however you choose to celebrate Lent.

But thank God!  He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.57, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

The *really* bleak mid-winter

February is a challenging month for many people who live in the northern hemisphere.  It may be the month for celebrating love and family, and it may be the shortest month, but it often is the dullest month of the year, too – the month that brings to life the C.S. Lewis quotation:  “Always winter, never Christmas.”

I want to encourage you to consider this text by the English poet Christina Rossetti.  Victorian and pre-Victorian English hymnists loved to make references to the weather; one might think they assumed that December weather was the same in England as it was in Palestine!  Often, this text is sung only at Christmas, since it appears in the Christmas section of most hymnals (and its text is filled with the nativity).  It definitely fits the Christmas theme, but perhaps in February, which is the really bleak mid-winter, we do well to revisit this classic text:

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.


Angels and archangels may have gathered there,

cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;

but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,

worshiped 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.


Here’s a link to listen to this text, with a more delightful English choral tune than is often found in most hymn books.

As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night” (Genesis 8.22, NLT).