In the Bleak Midwinter


Sitting at my window, I cannot make out what exists outside. The view is obstructed by the coat of ice on the interior of the century old windows in my century old flat.

It is winter, I am not complaining. I am from Michigan and live in Wisconsin, long and cold winters are simply part of life. I largely appreciate winter, and the drastic change in seasons. But today, in February, I look out and all I can see are distorted shapes representing life.

Or rather, life in slumber.

I appreciate winter, but today it feels bleak. A city typically teeming with life seems desolate. Water, typically inhabited by ducks and geese is solid and empty.

Trees without leaves, sidewalks largely empty except for a couple of times a day. The only signs of life are the buses and cars which continue to carry people from place to place. But still, a meager sign of organic life.


I know that winter does not last forever, I have experienced many seasonal cycles, enough to know that winter will come to an end, the ice and snow will melt, birds will return, leaves will grow, and my city will once again be filled with life. I am looking forward to being able to go outside without a coat or boots, or without ice forming in my beard. But today, on this day in February, it almost seems as though this will last forever.


There is a tree right in front of my home, and I have a special relationship with it. The burning of its leaves signal the arrival of autumn, the green buds, tiny at first, signal the spring. But today it is naked, bare, unadorned.

It appears to be dead, but I know that it is not.

I wonder if the tree sees this time as bleak. Does the tree become impatient with winter, with its hibernation? Does it look forward to bringing forth life yet again?

As I begin to make out the shape of the tree through the distorting ice, it looks to be patient, or at least I imagine it to be patient.

Year after year it goes through these cycles, year after year it stands there, patiently enduring the cold and the heat, the light and the darkness, the dry and the wet.


I wonder if I can learn from this tree, learn of this patient endurance. After all, winter doesn’t last forever, the freeze will end.

I continue to think of the Beatitudes from Matthew’s gospel, the text from which I preached two Sundays ago.

 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Mt 5:3-9, NRSV).

Blessed are the broken, for they will be made whole.

Blessed is this tree, for its patient endurance will be given life.

Perhaps I can learn from this tree, perhaps this tree can teach me something about this season, about winter, about life.


The winter is bleak, and it is long, and although the days are slowly getting longer, darkness still seems to reign supreme.

But if I can hold with patience, I have faith that this waiting is not meaningless, but rather, spring will come. Life will return.

I wonder if the change in seasons is a microcosm for life, slowly teaching us patience. Year after year the seasons change, always with the comfort and the sadness that nothing lasts forever. I have made it through thirty winters and spring has always arrived. Perhaps I can endure the darkness and the brokenness of the present world with the hope that, when the time is right, the perfect and eternal spring will renew and refresh all.


2 thoughts on “In the Bleak Midwinter

  1. Matt–So much of life seems to be spent in waiting, doesn’t it? I feel like I’m waiting right now in a few things And I catch myself thinking, “My life will start when…” to which the Holy Spirit quickly reminds me that this IS my life. It has started, and I only get one. So I am called to live each moment intentionally. That’s not always easy. To observe when you’re called to wait, what you’re called to do, and when you’re called to MOVE. Sometimes I feel like the inertia of waiting is so heavy. I’m been here for so long that I find it hard to get started on anything, and I run the risk of missing the opportunity that God has placed in front of me.

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