The Rose in Winter
As most of you who read this know, it's been snowing in Seattle. Since we're normally in the 'temperate' zone and our Decembers are characterized by rain rather than cold, our flora often make it straight through the winter unscathed. The sight of roses in December aren't uncommon. But the sight of roses with snow on them? That's another story entirely.
The picture, taken by my youngest daughter, reminds me of a less common carol entitled, "Lo How a Rose E're Blooming". It was written in Germany in the 16th century to celebrate the unlikely event of Mary conceiving and giving birth to the son of God "in the midst of winter".
Of course the winter is poetic, referring to the Roman empire. But in what sense are to think of the prosperous, peaceful, educated, artistic, civic minded, united, architecturally progressive empire as "winter". Doesn't it seem that, in light of everything, this was the best of times? Yes, perhaps. It was a good time indeed unless you were a slave, because of course slaves were necessary to keep the economy prosperous. And it was a good time if you were wealthy, but if the heavy taxations of the empire led to your bankruptcy, you and your land would become the property of a wealthy lord for whom you would then spend the rest of your life working, living in hunger and poverty and dying in disgrace. Of course, if you were a woman you had no rights at all, neither educationally nor maritally, legally nor financially.
Yes, it was a great time to be alive unless you were part of the disappearing middle class, or a woman, or a slave. For those people it was winter, a time when the power structures of the world were holding people in darkness, fear, hunger, and poverty. The songs wonderful declaration is that, right in the midst of it winter's grip, a rose blossomed!
This is Mary's womb receiving the life and light of the world.
This is Father Christmas bringing gifts to the children in Narnia.
This is International Needs in Ghana, saving women from sexual slavery.
This is "N", who will celebrate four years of sobriety this month, and quickly claim Christ as the source of his victory.
This is ____ whose marriage was ravaged by infidelity and pornography, but who, in their darkest night, found Christ blooming in their hearts, and well able to heal and deliver - not instantly by any means, but relentlessly, so that they have found love blossoming "in the cold of winter"
I could go on, but you get the picture. The rose that is Christ is blooming all around me this Christmas, if I've but eyes to see. This is why I have great hope, both for my own heart, my family, my church, my world. LIFE wins! The rose flowers when everything points to frigid death. Jesus beats the tomb. Justice will triumph over mercy.
Lord of the thaw - in the cold and dark of our world, give us eyes to see the warmth of your life that is blooming all around us, and faith to believe and receive its flowering within us. Grant that we might be people of hope and joy, not naievely, but precisely because we see the reality of your glorious life, within us, around us, and spilling into world. May we sing your praises precisely because we see your life, right here, right now, in the winter of our world.
The text, with a literal translation of the song can be found here.
All the verses in english can be found here.