Seasons Always Change

There’s nothing like Christmas to put our calendar on center stage (although weddings may rank a close second). Suddenly, time makes its final sprint, but we tired mortals can hardly keep pace; we have exams, concerts, parties, shopping, year-end financials, travel, and—oh, yeah—the actual Christmas Day that generally marks the finish line. At the end of the year, it seems that time, our oldest acquaintance, is not really a friend.

Outside my kitchen window, nature’s unhurried calendar has worked its way to the edges of winter. Hardwoods still reach skyward but with balding limbs, a rather tired look. The squirrels’ frenetic acorn harvest has slowed, too, and fewer birds flit against the glass. Fall’s golden canopy has thinned to leave us with telephone poles and asphalt in all their dull prominence. The big pause is at hand.

Against this scene plays a different one—the Christmas lights, clinking ornaments, cozy seasonal decor and sequined parties. Whether this is happy or not is uncertain for many. If you’re a parent, you’re likely buried in Google docs from children who aim to make it easier to buy expensive makeup, out-of-stock shoes and $150 sweatpants. You discover you must squeeze in shopping and baking and morph into some pitiful version of Martha Stewart, George Bailey and Santa Claus for a couple weeks, and with a touch of Jesus—or maybe Charlie Brown—thrown in by Christmas Eve. (Linus is among the best Christmas preachers.) Almond Toffee Petites Buy New $33.39 ($0.89 / Ounce) (as of 05:02 UTC - Details)

If you have somehow managed to focus on the quieter mystery that God, the Creator, has visited us—and our deep sufferings—in humble flesh, you may find this Advent leads to an evergreen gift, the “pearl of great price.” You might also discover that divine revelation and redemptive joy find no voice in our retail discord and fancy holiday excess. Oh, to block out all the crowd noise and sit in that genuine wonder for a season!

Other kinds of seasons come and go without much celebration at all, and they often hold us in a strange captivity that stretches beyond that of weather and holidays. Our circumstances and spirits lead us through all sorts of trials and triumphs. We can’t force such seasons to stay when we’re basking in their unexpected joys, nor can we demand they leave when we’re tired of their cruel abuses. Some are fleeting, some are stubborn and exhausting; but we have little power to arrange them, either way, it seems.

If this forecast was all there is—with our few trips around the sun brightened only by holidays and “bucket lists”—then life would indeed be meaningless. Surrounded in joys and beauties, we’d be content to linger at the surface, never tracing them to their source. In our bleaker seasons, we would see only the work of a faceless “fate” hovering over our disappointments. The truisms, Murphy’s Laws and positive thinking that carry so many along would finally end in a big nothing, at best.

Thankfully, nature’s classroom, one kind of divine revelation, points us to better things. Its catechism plays out in roots, leaves, and skies, the seasonal metaphors for bigger realities behind it all. There is a reason why natural law is harmonious; one revelation agrees with the other, and when God is revealed in human flesh, both “heaven and nature sing.” Nature points to the God who has also revealed himself through his son and in his word; he makes himself known.

TRUE METRIXu00ae Blood... Buy New $62.00 ($0.31 / Count) (as of 05:02 UTC - Details) Our own seasons aren’t always the singing kind, though. They often buck the calendar and go by different vexing names—singleness, unemployment, divorce, illness, loneliness, and grief, to name a few. We would prefer to live only in the temperate and lovely seasons, but God permits us to suffer them all—including the tempestuous ones that rattle our faith. We wonder why; but what does nature teach us about such seasons?

With each October of falling leaves, we’re warned that colder and shorter days approach, and with that our yards must wither and fade. We are unsurprised to see this happen year after year—but it’s God’s hand, an orderly interruption that we’re powerless to change. We’e even learned to enjoy it. And what is it all for? In the sad dormancy that follows, our roses, figs and oaks are prepared for their summer glories. From winter’s grey pause comes life.

January’s chill sends us looking for warm pockets of sun, wherever they are to be found—against a brick wall, on front steps, or in an open field. By then, all the withering and shedding is long past, and rakes and blowers have done their best to clear the visible mess from barren yards. We can hardly even remember spring’s warmth. Yet the shortest days are behind us, at least; Christmas came and went before we knew it. With each additional minute of sun bookending our days, the door from winter’s tomb slowly widens.

Soon enough, there is a late stretch of miserably wet days that convinces us to disbelieve that spring really exists at all. The persistent gray ceiling, painfully damp earth and frowning trees—day after lengthening day—tell us winter is forever; the burst of front-porch sun you enjoyed last week was perhaps not really the sign of an early spring. Pictures of friends on tropical escapes remind us that some places are warm and sunny, but never our gray and mundane world.

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