Heav’n and earth shall flee away

by Elouise

It’s bleak. Outside and inside. Cold, damp weather. Unpredictable tears. Aches and pains. Low energy. Missing my family members. Worldwide tragedy and political uncertainty. You get the picture.

As always, music helps me refocus when I hit low spots. Last night I played the piano for a while and sang along to some of my favorite Advent and Christmas carols. This included “In the bleak mid-winter” by Christina Rossetti. I love Harold Darke’s quiet setting of this carol.

When I hear the first stanza, I imagine this planet frozen beneath mammoth snow. Waiting. Waiting for the big thaw. A bit like waiting for Aslan to return.

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.

The second stanza contains our prompt for today. What do you think it means here?

Our God, Heav’n cannot hold him
Nor earth sustain;
Heav’n 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.

Does this mean heaven and earth are running away? In terror of God’s reign? Trying to avoid judgment?

I don’t think so. The words suggest that heaven and earth are about to change. The deep freeze will give way to One who is greater than they. So much greater that a different, larger dwelling place is needed.

In fact, only one place is ‘large’ enough to hold this One. A stable!

I picture Heaven and Earth bowing and retreating. They don’t vanish or run away. They simply get out of the way  for the One who created them. The One who chose not to arrive with pomp and circumstance, but in an unobtrusive stable. A shelter with more than enough to welcome and nurture a small Stranger.

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.

The final stanza is the most well-known. Who doesn’t tear up at this?

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,
Give my heart.

Here’s a quiet, moving performance of Harold Darke’s arrangement, sung by The Choir of King’s College in Cambridge, England.

Thanks for visiting and reading. I pray each of us will set aside time for quiet reflection today and tomorrow.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 December 2016
Response to Daily Prompt: Flee