The Boaters' Christian Fellowship

For Christians who enjoy the Inland Waterways of Britain

The wise men come to the stable.

A Christmas Carol by Christina Rossetti

Also known as ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’.

In the bleak midwinter,
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 ago.

Just last week, the first fall of now floated freely to the ground, fluttering all around and settling at our feet. What a glorious sight. God’s creation is amazing – to think that just a few weeks ago we were adorned with trees bearing leaves of radiant colour, now their branches were skilfully edged in sparkling snow.

Only for a few hours did our snow last before it melted away, leaving no trace of where it had been. Yet for a while it reminded me of the Christmas Carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. Yet the scene before me was not bleak, but beautiful.

Since then, I have thought more about this carol which was first written as a poem by Christina Rossetti in 1972 and entitled ‘A Christmas Carol’. This, of course, is what it has become when it was set to music firstly by Gustav Holst in 1906 and Edwin Darke also set it to music in 1909. The Carol was published under the title ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’.

Last winter seemed pretty bleak for some as we faced lockdown due to Covid-19. The NHS was under enormous strain and very sadly many people lost their lives, and we mourn their loss. Yet, just like in the Christmas story when hope was shining in the form of baby Jesus being born as the Saviour of the world, so too, in early December 2020, hope was shining in the form of a vaccine.

Before Jesus was born, God had appeared to be silent, having previously sent prophets over many years to guide his people. No-one had prophesied for the last 400 years. It was a bleak time spiritually as they awaited the promised Saviour. No one understood that this Saviour of the world would need to be born as a baby, in a lowly stable.

Verse two comes to life with this glorious declaration:

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him,
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter,
A stable-place sufficed,
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Cleverly, Christinna takes the reader on a journey from before the beginning of time to the end of time, ignoring all other details other than the most important event in earth’s history, the birth of Jesus Christ.

Christina then paints the joyous Nativity scene in verse three:

Angels and Archangels
may have gathered there.
Cherubim and seraphim
thronged the air.
But his mother only
in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved
with a kiss.

Indeed, Mary knew who Jesus was. She knew that He was God’s son. She knew God had great plans for Him. She knew He had, through Jesus, been faithful to His promise to Abraham, that through Him all nations will be blessed and she treasured this in her heart.

The final verse turns from the retelling of the greatest event in history and asks us for a personal response.

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.

What can we give Jesus this Christmas? Can we serve Him more? Can we pray more? Can we love Him and others more? Can we take time with Him more? While all these are good, the most important thing we can give Jesus is our heart.

So let us invite Him once again, or for the first time, into every area of our lives; invite Him in as Lord, Saviour and King asking for forgiveness for the things we have done wrong and he will forgive us; He will come into our heart and dwell with us. As Jesus promised: ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.' How immensely comforting and true this promise from Jesus is.

Christmas Blessings to you all.

Cruising on the Kennet & Avon

If you are a Christian, and have a love of the British Canals and Rivers, then the Boaters' Christian Fellowship is for you! Despite the name, you do not need a boat to be a member.

Membership is open to anyone who agrees with our Statement of Belief. We are a diverse group of many denominations. Members of the Boaters' Christian Fellowship come from all walks of life and ages. Some just enjoy walking or sitting by the waterways. Many want to own a boat one day, or have sadly had to give up their boating life. Some enjoy Hire Boat holidays. Of course, a large percentage are currently boat owners or have a share in a boat.

Canalway Cavalcade

It is our shared love of our Lord, and common interest in the waterways that brings us together. We organise get-togethers throughout the year (formally and informally), and our Membership Directory ensures you can find other members near you. Our AGM is a lively affair, with members coming from all over the country to share fellowship and worship. As well as the formal meeting (which we keep as short as possible), there is plenty of time to get to know each other. We also enjoy a "Bring and Share" lunch - which usually has enough left-overs for tea as well!

The Boaters' Christian Fellowship is a great way of getting to know other Christians across the network. If you are new to boating, several of our members will be only too pleased to share their knowledge with you. Our regular magazine, the BCF Word, is published four times a year in full colour. It is packed with useful tips, as well as members sharing stories of their cruises. There is a series of studies on the letter of Paul to the Romans, along with news from the Waterways Chaplaincy and Canal Ministries team.

Many people, from all walks of life, feel something of the "Peace of the Canals". It is a way of getting away from the pressures of life. A chance and a place to reflect. This is why the Canal & River Trust has the strapline "Making life better by water". As Christians, we can thank God for the opportunities this presents to share the Good News.

AGM & Fellowship Day 2021

Covid restrictions permitting, we will be holding our AGM & Fellowship day in Rugby as usual. Please visit the Members' area for more information and booking form.

Please note - this is for Members only.

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About Us

Formed in 1995 the BCF now has over 600 members, with approximately 350 privately owned boats. Read more...


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Verse of the Day