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photo: CC0 public domain

As a child, I remember learning this poem and quoting it with our class at a Christmas program…or singing it. I don’t remember from this vantage point.

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 can I give him?
I will give my heart.

I always loved the simplicity of that poem. It seemed to get to the heart of the matter. (pun unintended)

Poetry has been an acquired taste of adulthood

I didn’t have much love for poetry and my high school English teacher did nothing to help me love it. Personally, I hated all the analyzing of it that often seemed to me to be reading things into it that weren’t there. It also seemed coldly analytical. I missed out on the beauty of the metaphors and the warmth, color, beauty and texture of the words back then. Yes, I know that was the purpose of analyzing it, but the way it was done showed me none of those things! They are all the things I love about literature and poetry now.

It is odd that I didn’t enjoy both the analyzing of the poetry then nor did I enjoy the poetry studies either. As I look back now, I think it had more to do with the environment I was in. I am very intuitive. To me, the environment I lived in felt very cold and critical even though I probably wouldn’t have said it then.

It would have felt disloyal, disrespectful and too rebellious for me to have said such a thing, or to even have thought it. It wasn’t until years later that I got in touch with those feelings and understood much of what was happening in my soul at the time. But that is a story for another day. Suffice to say, It was not a safe place to be different (and I was!) or discuss a different view. So I tended to try to fit in. It didn’t work.

My intuitive sense was right despite my logical conversations with it. The voices of those around me were not a reflection of GOD’s view of me.

Now, as an adult who has raised children, I realize my intuition with which I tried to be logical, and tried to ignore, was right. I was disrespected as a person. I was weird and funky. There was only the rare person who seemed to value me, a lonely, gawky high school student far from home. It took years for me to realize that the voices of the people surrounding me were not the expressing GOD’s view of me.

He wasn’t looking at me and critiquing all that was wrong about me…or making fun of my quirks and immature ways as those around me did. Even as I write this, I am touched by the truth of what I am writing. Despite teachers who at times made fun of me, to say nothing of other students, I knew deep down that there was something valuable about me. But there was nothing logical that told me that. The ridicule hurt me deeply. Something within me knew I was valuable. But the voices around me, the Christian voices, did not confirm it. It was a painful period. It was even more painful than I even realized at the time.

He knew the ministry I would be in for the rest of my life. He needed for me to live through this lonely period and understand what it felt like. In no way did it justify the way those in leadership treated me and those who were treated much worse (by far) than I. I was only responsible for the way I responded. In general, I learned to empathize with those who were on the outside looking in. As time went on, I didn’t always know how to help, but I gradually learned over time.

It was only in my late 20’s that I came to love poetry as I was grieving the loss of my dad and infant daughter that I found I couldn’t always put full sentences together. However, I could express feelings much better in this format…no it didn’t rhyme. I also appreciated good poetry that expressed the feelings of others so well.

But back to this poem. You knew I would make it back soon didn’t you?

This was written by Christina Rossetti and became a hymn after her death. It is actually the final verse of the larger poem. Take a look here to learn more about her and her life…and see the setting of this poem. It is a great read!

I need to put the words of the full poem here to give the setting. It is beautiful! Obviously, Bethlehem didn’t have a bleak winter. However, He was born into a metaphorically bleak winter. There had been no apparent voice from GOD for 400 years! No prophets had spoken. It had been a silent, dark time. They were living under the iron fist of Rome when Jesus was born.

Jesus was born into a very metaphorically bleak winter. There had been no apparent voice from GOD for 400 years! No prophets had spoken. It had been a silent, dark time. They were living under the iron fist of Rome when Jesus was born. Click To Tweet

Into that bleak winter came Jesus. Heaven was unable to hold Him back!

For those who held out hope for a Messiah, hope had to be dim…just like the bleakness of the cold, mid-winter in places where the snow is added to snow and the days are short. Doesn’t she describe those winters well? And how about the winter of the soul? During those times, it seems like Spring will never come!

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 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.


Enough for him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay:
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.


Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air –
But only his mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped 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.


Christina Rossetti

She does such a beautiful job of showing the contrast between the bleakness of mid-winter, much like the world into which Jesus arrived, and the world from which He came. It was full of angels and archangels filling the air adoring Him with light and beautiful music!

So there He was, in a stark manger with only his mother there to kiss him. As I have grown to love poetry, I learned to enjoy its free flowing nature and the ability for it to express emotion and express contrasts to show us more clearly how we feel. It is truly beautiful!

Think of the bleak winter of soul that requires your need for Christ. It required His coming to bring change to your world. He brought life and vibrancy to the bleakness of our souls. But that night in Bethlehem, no one realized how His coming was going to affect them.


And what of heaven? The place from which He came and to which we will be going if we are His children some day. What must it be like to be in a place where angels worship Him all the time?


What must it be like? Where the Lord GOD Almighty is present? It must be unimaginably amazing…in terms of beauty, joy, fulfilling relationships that are not marred by sin in any way.

Originally written in 2018.