Christina Rossetti’s words pierce my heart at Christmas, year after year:
“Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign.”
It is worth pausing and pondering the answer to the question: how deep and how broad was that love?
To move with me toward an answer, journey to a small chapel in Cartmell Fell, a little known holy place in the North of England. If you know where to look when you arrive there–the stone is half hidden in the chancel–you can find a 1771 inscription with elegant lettering:
“Underneath this stone a mouldering Virgin lies,
Who was the pleasure once of Human Eyes.
Her Blaze of Charms Virtue once approved
The Gay admired her, much the parents loved.
Transitory life! Death untimely came.
Adieu, farewell, lonely leave my name.”
The words describe Betty Poole; she was a little girl who died at age three.
Christina Rossetti also wrote:
“In the bleak mid-winter Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone”¦”
It is only when the bleakness of this world and its iron hardness is fully felt, that the miracle of melting which began at Christmas can penetrate and shock us into appropriate awe. God’s love enveloped the whole moaning, stony, sin-sick world. It is broad enough to embrace it all, in this world and the next.
I imagine being with Betty Poole in Heaven and hearing her say with a smile, “God’s love was bigger than I thought!”
–The Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is Canon Theologian of South Carolina and convenor of this blog