When I was eight years old, we moved from Kelligrews, Conception Bay South to St. John’s. At the time, Kelligrews was a small town and by comparison, St. John’s was the big city! St. John’s had street buses and thousands of roads. It had more cars than I had ever seen and there were people walking the streets all the time. It was such a change from Kelligrews when I first arrived! The biggest change for me, as an eight-year-old, was the size of the school! There were hundreds in my new school, and I was in a class with no one I knew. This should have been a scary time for me, but I made friends quickly and it wasn’t long before I was no longer a stranger.
The most exciting part of the new school was all the different activities I could do in my new school. I could join Brownies, band and choir, and after school gym activities! I thought it was all so interesting, so needless to say I joined everything I could.
My most vivid memory from that time, however, was a Christmas concert the first year in my new school. The music teacher began to teach us new songs to sing and one of those chosen was, “In The Bleak Midwinter.” The hymn had a different tune than I was used to, and the teacher brought a drum into our performance. We had to memorize all the words of the songs we were singing for our concert, and we practiced every day until the performance.
While I don’t remember any of the other songs we sang for that concert, I still remember, all these years later, the words to “In The Bleak Midwinter.” For the first time in my young life, Christmas became something other than a time for Santa Claus and a letter to Santa.
The hymn’s words began with, “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 midwinter, long ago.” Living in Newfoundland, I understood very well what a bleak midwinter was. I had seen water frozen and snow falling upon snow. As an eight-year-old, I could relate!
But the part of the hymn which stuck even more clearly in my mind was the end of the song. The words said, “What can I give him? Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. But what can I give him, give him my heart. Give him my heart!”
As a young child those words spoke to me. I didn’t have anything to give to the baby Jesus. I was a child, and it wasn’t possible for me to give the baby Jesus a present! But that hymn told me exactly the present I could give to Jesus. I could give Jesus my heart! That was the greatest gift I could ever give Jesus.
To this day, that hymn remains my favourite. The words are entrenched in my mind and soul. We often think we need to give grand gestures and presents to show our love for one another, but in reality the greatest gift you can give anyone is your heart! Jesus considers your heart to be the best gift, and I pray this Advent season you all receive God’s gift to us… his son!
God Bless you all and Happy Christmas!