My Advent Playlist Day 3: I'll Give My Heart

So last year I blogged through the entire month of December to celebrate Advent season, and all in all it was a pretty successful venture! I felt very much plugged into the spirit of the season, and learned a thing or two about myself along the way. On the other hand, it almost killed me, so this year I embark on the same quest with no small amount of trepidation. I figured I could mitigate some stress, though, by messing with the formula a little. So this year I'm using Christmas carols as thematic springboards for my Advent blog posts. Each day I will pick a line from a Christmas carol and reflect on its meaning in the context of my/our experience with Christmas this year.

I'll Give My Heart

One of the most hauntingly beautiful Christmas carols I've ever heard is also one of the most obscure. Last year, when I blogged on my favorite lesser-known Christmas songs, chief among them was an old number called "In the Bleak Midwinter." If you haven't heard it please give it a quick listen (my preferred version is by 80s New Wave Queen Annie Lennox), and let the richness, the beauty sink in, paying special mind to the lyrics in the last few lines.

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.
But what I have, I'll give Him.
Give my heart.

What can I give Him?

I'll give my heart.

This song plays with themes similar to another holiday favorite of mine, "The Little Drummer Boy," envisioning its narrator approaching the manger, bowing before the newborn Godchild and offering a gift. 

Except while the drummer boy, faced with his inability to offer the young Lord anything of monetary value, decides to share of his own talents, our Midwinter singer simply resolves to give his/her heart.

Having grown up pretty (relatively) poor myself, I have encountered this question from time to time: how do I let the people I love know how much I care when I can hardly afford decent gifts for them?

Also inherent in the question (what can I give?) is a much deeper one, an incredibly raw cry of the heart: how can I give back to those who love me so well? 

How can I repay a God who took my ramshackle life and made it into something beautiful?


As I think on it, I believe these questions come simultaneously from a place of love and appreciation for those nearest and dearest, and also, potentially, from a less healthy place. Hear me out. There seems to be an implicit assumption, an undercurrent beneath all human relationships that we are, each of us, operating on a ledger system. We must keep the scales balanced, keep everything even.

God forbid there be a relationship in my life where I am in some way indebted to the other, or the other to me.

Compliments must be returned in kind, gifts reciprocated. I have to pull my weight in every relationship, at all times, or else I'll be a drain, a charity case.

That's just the thing, though, about the gift God gave us on Christmas day. The gift of His incarnation, His presence, His imminence. We can't match it. We can't pay Him back.

But He keeps on giving. That's grace.

The grace of God cannot be bought, even by the rich. It cannot be balanced or tempered by our attempts to break even. Which means that even a (relatively) poor kid like me can approach the Throne of Grace with empty hands but a full heart and see the God of the universe smiling back at him.

It is, however, natural to want to give back, and so long as our motivation is giving out of love rather than trying to balance our cosmic accounts, I know God is pleased by the impulse.

So this Christmas let us each discover which gift to lay down at the manger-throne of the ever-humbled, ever-giving God.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

I'll give my heart.

My hopes, my fears, my insecurities and passions. My worries, my secrets, my memories. My pulsing, pumping, thumping, bleeding heart, full of sinew and sadness. Full of tissue and tears. Of cells and certainties, veins and virtues.

My messy, misshapen, unsightly, beautiful heart.

I'll give my heart. I know He'll like it.


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