‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime- a Christmas devotional for Jan. 2, 2018

During the Twelve Days of Christmas, just as in the Advent season, I am going to reflect on a hymn or carol daily as part of my spiritual practices. I am not sure where all these reflections will take me, but in conversation with my spiritual director, I am going to leave room for both “the head stuff” and “the heart stuff.” Some days might be more of one or another. I invite you to join me, as together we make space to listen, and be present, to sense what God might be up to. 

Merry Ninth Day of Christmas! For some of you like me, today might mean its back to work. For others, it might be back to school. For some of you lucky ones, you might have one more week left of winter or Christmas vacation. Whatever the case may be, the Twelve Days of Christmas roll on. And as they do so, I have what might be a bit of a less familiar carol on my mind, “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime.” It seems appropriate since last night much of the world saw a “Super Moon.”

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled,
that God the Lord of all the earth sent angel choirs instead;
before their light the stars grew dim, and wandering hunters heard the hymn:
Jesus your king is born! Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria!

The Super Moon shining early in the morning over the beautiful winter scape of Nebraska.

Because it was so cold last night, I didn’t dare go out and admire it. But I did happen to catch it early this morning while looking out a window. It’s a glorious sight, and the winter scape it helps create to view, is also a reminder of God’s creation and the beauty that winter can create.

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;
a ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round;
but as the hunter braves drew nigh, the angel song rang loud and high:
Jesus your king is born! Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria! 

This carol which is set to a French carol tune, is one that was written for and sung by the Huron people in present day Canada. It is one of the few “first nations” carols and hymns that are in our hymnal, and according to Paul Westermeyer, “This is the earliest ‘first nations’ Christmas carol and the earliest Canadian hymn we know about” (Westermeyer, 63). As much as I like the rhythmic and somewhat minor feeling melody which is unique for the Christmas season, I like it even more because it takes the Christmas story and makes it relatable to a particular context. The truth of the story hasn’t changed, but rather it reiterates the point that, “‘the holy child of earth and heaven is born today for you,’ whoever and wherever your are” (Westermeyer, 63).

The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
as was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your king is born! Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria!

As we move towards Epiphany at the end of the week, this verse offers a reimagining of the wise men as chiefs, who would bring what was valuable in their context- fox and beaver pelt, for example. It begs the question for me, what can we offer or what would we bring the newborn king? It’s a stewardship question, which I think is great to ponder during this time of year?

O children of the forest free, the angel song is true;
the holy child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come, kneel before the radiant boy, who brings you beauty, peace, and joy. 
Jesus your king is born! Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria! 

In these last few days of the Christmas season, do not rush to move on. Ponder these things in your heart like Mary. As you look at the year ahead, how might you not only ponder these things, but let them shape who you are in new ways this year? And, how might doing so, make space for you to wonder about what God might be up to around you?

I hope you ponder these questions, because I am pondering them today. In the midst of knowing there are email replies to respond to, resources to write and edit, sermons and presentations to prepare; taking some time to dwell in the promises of the season not only center and calm me, I believe they make my work and day better and more meaningful. Maybe they will for you too.


Credit/Reference: Jean de Brebeuf; French folk tune, “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime,” tr. Jesse E. Middleton, found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 284.

Paul Westermeyer, Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010), 63-64.

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