Last year some family members and I were talking about our favorite Christmas songs. Just about everyone named one of the many bouncy, cheerful carols that we all know and love.

Mine, however, didn’t quite fall into that category.

My favorite Christmas hymn is a contemplative tune that deeply resonates with my experience of knowing Jesus. It’s called In The Bleak Midwinter. Doesn’t sound very bouncy, does it?

Here are some of the words…

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 on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter long ago.

These words so resonate with me — and with so many others, I’m sure — because we know all too well the bleak mid-winter experience. Many know what it’s like to feel alone and abandoned, to feel discouraged and disappointed — in yourself, in others, and in the circumstances of life. I would venture to say that we all have weathered, at some time, the bleak mid-winter.

And for some, the bleakness seems to never end. Life appears to be like it was in Narnia, before Aslan arrived: always winter, never Christmas.

The good news is that the winter doesn’t last forever. If you find yourself sometimes paralyzed by fear and uncertainty, there was a simple promise made to all people everywhere on that first Christmas night, a promise you can claim as your own: You don’t have to be afraid. You can even dare to yield to joy.

These were the first words spoken by the angel to the young shepherds, as they stood terrified before the heavenly host.

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

Fear not, because God is here.

We know from experience that there is no solace to be secured from the ice and snow, no comfort to be found in the frosty wind. But if you’re willing to reach beyond the surrounding elements of winter … to dare to put your future in the hands of the God who loves you, then you can be sure that joy, and hope, and favor await you in his presence.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.