Moments ago I stood beneath the shelter of my front porch, holding a cup of steaming coffee and watching the flurries drift onto the white canopy around me. There’s something beautiful in the silence and crisp air filling my lungs. Of course, everyone knows this. People across the country aren’t eagerly stepping out of the comfort of their own living rooms to get their feet cold and wet if it wasn’t a fairly universal feeling. There’s just something ethereal in seeing everything—from patches of dead grass to cars in driveways—covered up in delicate white.
But, and here perhaps I’m some depressing anomaly, whenever I stand around in 18-degree weather I also feel a sudden pang and worry, for what is so beautiful about winter is also deadly. What about that homeless man who always sits outside the bagel store? Did he find shelter last night? What about the children in the World Vision catalog from Mongolia, all huddled beside a fabric tent with snow piled high around them? Suddenly that crisp air able to sweep so quickly into my lungs makes me feel desperate.
Both perfect beauty—the content of a hundred jingles around the holidays—and perilous content in one single flurry. I don’t know what to do with the dichotomy of feeling equally so happy and sad.
Then, however, I shut the door and sat back on the sofa, recognizing something as I read the most stirring poem from 16th century poet, Robert Southwell:
This little babe, so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake.
Though he himself for cold do shake,
For in this weak unarmèd wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.
With tears he fights, and wins the field,
His naked breast stands for a shield.
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows made of weeping eyes.
His martial ensigns cold and need,
And feeble flesh his warrior’s steed.
When we really think about it, we Christians seem pretty crazy. We gather on Sunday mornings, banging on piano and drums to sing merrily about things so gory and gruesome it would sound like insanity were it not so familiar. Imagine if we went Message version on the words to some of these traditional songs and everyone sang in unison:
Oh, the wonderful electric chair!
Oh, the wonderful electric chair!
Wants me to come and be fried,
To find that I, can truly live!
Tag on smiling old men and women wearing gold electric chairs necklaces as they shake your hand during greeting time and how quickly we would run away from that place, eh?
But the reality is that Christianity as a whole is this dichotomy of gruesome and incredible. Of absolutely terrifying and positively enticing. Of horrifying and exactly all that I need.
I would never wish for the snow to cease existing; I just would like to live in a world where people never suffered. Likewise, I hate everything about Jesus’ willing sacrifice of undue shame, abandonment, whips, glass, nails, and broken bones. I wish there had been some other way. But if His tears are what “won the field” and gained victory, then alleluia. May snow fall and praises ring.
Blessings and Merry Flurrying,
P.S. If you’d like to pitch in and protect children and families from frostbite, hypothermia, influenza, pneumonia, and death, consider providing clothing and shelter by clicking here: worldvision.org.
And some verses for our snow day…
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills…
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”