In the bleak mid-winter

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 mid-winter

Long long ago.

"The Bleak Midwinter" seldom hits the list of favorite Christmas carols. Cold and desolate images frame this somber reflective piece. There are no bright angels singing joy to the world, nor calls to rejoice. In the countdown to Christmas, we have been led to believe all will be merry and bright. And yet, the reality of this season for so many is bleak and even heart breaking.

For those who are living with loss while the world is celebrating, navigating the festivities of the season is often a source of fresh grief. In our church, as in many others, we gather for a quiet reflective service that leaves room for grief and ambivalence. All are welcome to be part of the "Longest Night: Awaiting the Hope of a New Day" at 7 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, 2900 Hall.

All over the world, many are experiencing the hard bleakness of the season. This week, we woke to news of 148 people, most of them schoolchildren, slaughtered in Pakistan as an act of terror. In Sydney, Australia, the downtown area was under lockdown for 16 hours as a lone gunman held hostages in a popular cafe. In this country, communities are continuing to gather in the cold of winter to grieve and protest the deaths of black men, women and children. God, who was incarnate in human flesh, surely weeps with all those who are suffering. It seems like every day brings fresh tragedies and polarizing conflict. In so many ways, this certainly feels like it is a bleak midwinter.

And yet, Jesus did not come to festive celebrations nor a life of security and comfort, but to poor and oppressed people in bleak and dangerous times. People who knew all too well what it is to long for light in the darkness, for peace in the midst of peril and hope in the bleakest of times. Deep sadness cannot be separated from the story of Jesus' birth.

To fully claim Jesus as Lord and Savior is an act of defiance against hopelessness, terrorism and cruelty in all its many forms. Perhaps only those who have walked in deep and anguished darkness may fully see in Jesus the light of God's world-changing love.

And so it is that Christ must continually be born in us, in this time and in this culture, even in the darkness of this bleak midwinter

What can I give Him,

Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd

I would bring a lamb;

If I were a wise man

I would do my part;

Yet what I can, I give Him -

Give my heart.

The Rev. Celeste Lasich is pastor at First Presbyterian Church.