We all live through various seasons – complete with winters.
Winter challenges us to face reality; ouch – but there it is…
It’s a great time to ask: “Do you believe in miracles?!”
And the Spirit can do it all in a wintry night: Now, it’s Christmas morning!
Our lives are a journey through various seasons. Some seasons can be as demanding as harsh winters – and just as surprising. Some matters of life are universal, regardless of the season; others differ sharply from season to season. Either dimension can be challenging, joyful, a struggle, profound, full of opportunity. Here I seek enduring meaning in the particulars of the time – in this case, in winter.
The Beginning of Reality
Winter teaches us to face harsh realities. Ouch, but there it is. Today in Minnesota, December 5th this time, winter begins for real again. Balmy wetness drizzled everywhere yesterday, with a whip-creamed topping of snow last night, all frozen this morning into a windy-cold reality. I shovel the snow to reveal a sheet of ice that might chill the walks for weeks. I walk our beautiful lake shivering in a wind so cold it cuts my forehead between my eyes and nose. Near home I slip on the ice to throw myself into an acrobatic miracle that avoids breaking a hip only to throw out my back – a harrowing experience that can force an unintended swear word from a mouth faster than a game of golf. I would blurt out the plea of Major Winchester in the war-zone of MASH: “Get me the HELL out of here!”
Life’s winters can be that cold. Still, there can be something unexpected in the wind. My first instinct thinks of winter as an ending (the end of all things if you’re in Minnesota) – a season of death. But then it occurs to me to choose to treat winter first as a beginning. Like when God began to create the world, and all was empty and void, one cosmic winter (like the park around my lake today) – but God…
Season of the Unexpected
In that winter of all time, God began to speak life into reality (Genesis, chapter 1). From winter, out of nowhere, God birthed goodness. Winter is a season awaiting miracles of new life. With the announcer’s exclamation of how some greenhorn American college kids beat the Soviet army-machine team in an Olympic game of ice-hockey, “Do you believe in miracles?!” In reality, miracles emerging from our winters create many of the best blessings of life.
In the process, winter teaches us HOW to deal with harsh realities. Some people, in Minnesota like nowhere else, know a secret in this: Embracing (or defying) winter by making sport with it – after all, winter here is the very state of hockey. I love the winter Olympics – cheering on the cross-country- ski-marathon from beside the fireplace. Waiting out a snowstorm by playing a strategy game with family or friends – let it snow! Putting together a 2,000-piece puzzle of the all-blue- ish Starry Night – with our long winters, go big or go home. Our annual The Lord of the Rings movie marathon with Christmas chocolates and an Irish coffee – a glorious epic of simple folk emerging from a wintry evil landscape to soar on eagles’ wings. Woe, I’ve gone and done it now: NEVER tell my brother Paul this, but in a way I’m looking forward to winter –VERY unexpectedly.
The theme here is simple blessings of fun and joy. In winter?! As also in MASH: A great way to deal with harsh reality is to make fun in spite of it. And if you need some help with this, I invite you to join in a parallel prayer I’ve adopted recently: “God (especially in winter) give me joy out of nowhere!”
For everything there is a season…
A time to mourn, and a time to dance…
The business… God has given… everyone…
God has made everything suitable for its time…
– Ecclesiastes 3 (NRSV)
Tools of the Trade
It also helps to use the right tools for the time. I once thought a snow-blower with a bombastic engine and a curly-cute tube was a luxurious toy. On dark Minnesota mornings at ten degrees below zero, when my wife needs the driveway cleared of snow to get to work, the city snowplow left a four-foot midnight glacier in her path, and the solution to this dilemma depends on heroic-scale deeds by her own pungent reindeer Viking – a snow-blower is a necessity for survival, and for a good marriage. There’s nothing like dealing with heaps of ice-crusted snow by blowing it all miraculously miles into the air and far across the lawn – sounds like fun. What tools (of faith, hope, joy) do you need to deal with the realities of your winters by blowing them to the wind?! Vikings everywhere, start your engines!
Now, at last, as Shakespeare penned it, these are also the winters of our discontents. Winter is also the season of death, and death in its various forms is very real indeed. Facing this is essential. Death is as dead as a doornail. Much of the best can come of the story of winter only if we stare this fact in the face. You see, it is our wintry discontents that often rouse us to a longing for something else: Love, hope, joy, life… It can be very good (and miraculous) to be visited by discontented spirits in the dead of winter – as in Dicken’s delightful Christmas Carol. We may all be stuck in destructive habits, mean attitudes, complacent ignorance, and contenting ourselves with greedy sorts of busy-ness. There are things that would be good to die in each of us – and discontented winters are good times to let them die.
So with the newborn Mr. Scrooge, we can also be awakened anew to the truths of how the needs and joys of humanity is our real business in this world. Toward that end, one of Jesus’ parables envisions a seed dying in the ground, there to rise again into multiplied fruits (John, chapter 12). The Spirit and pregnant stories can do that miracle in us, again, all in a wintry night. Then, we awaken once more into the new realities of a Christmas dawn.
Readers are also encouraged to explore other posts in this series: Living Life
God so loved the world… God is love!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…
and the tree of life…
at the middle of the great street of the city…
and the leaves of the tree
are for the healing of the cultures.
John 3; 1 John 4; Revelation 21, 22