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Andrée Seu Peterson: Hope for the bleak midwinter


WORLD Radio - Andrée Seu Peterson: Hope for the bleak midwinter

Fighting the good fight of faith when Christmas lights come down

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MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Wednesday, January 3rd, 2024. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next, WORLD commentator Andrée Sue Peterson on finding hope in the bleakness of winter.

ANDRÉE SEU PETERSON: There is Christmas, and then there is winter.

The Perry Como and Dean Martin radio specials stopped cold on December 26th like an embarrassment, making you feel you’ve been had. Soon it will be mid-January and you’ll be looking at each other in an empty house and one of you will say, “We need to take down the tree; it’s shedding all over the rug.”

Enter “the bleak midwinter” that 19th century English poet Christina Rossetti wrote about:

“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….”

We can hunker down and wait it out. But here is the problem with that plan: When my husband died bit by bit in April and May of 1999, I drove to the hospital every day down a road lined with pink cotton candy trees. That rude incongruity has never again allowed me to lie to my heart on spring days and say that death’s not real.

So we will have to do better than escapism. Maybe let the bleak midwinter have its way in the Lord’s providence. For every season the Lord made, he made for some effect upon the soul. He says in James 5:13: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms”. He says in Ecclesiastes, “When times are good, be happy. When times are bad, consider. God has made the one as well as the other”.

There is no gainsaying that times are bad, and not just for the melancholy slant of sun. In Europe and the Middle East, unprovoked aggression has led to wars that show the growing popularity of tyranny and terrorism. One politician in France even claims jihadists have appropriated the phrase, “Après le Samedi il y a le Dimanche,” which translated is “After Saturday there is Sunday”: First we deal with the Jews, and after that the Christians.

That’s the bleak midwinter, too.

No. If we are to weather midwinter in any fashion worthy of the name of Christian we shall have to do better than lying low in hibernation. Something more muscular.

But do Christianity and muscularity go together? Isn’t Christian faith an end of striving? Depends what you mean. We don’t strive to climb our way to heaven–that’s forbidden, and impossible, in any case. Then what is “the good fight” Paul insists on?

The good fight means that joy in winter must be forcefully laid hold of. It and other virtues hid in Christ are not the default mode of even ransomed men. If they were, then Peter led us wrong in counseling that we “make every effort” to add them to faith; and Paul should not have scolded saints in Corinth, calling them mere carnal, milk-fed men.

Proverbs 23:7 reads, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”. Let us think, therefore, upon all Christ has done for us, forgiven us, laid up for us. We will make it through midwinter and will see, as Peter writes, “the Day dawn and the morning star rise in our hearts”.

I’m Andrée Sue Peterson.

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