Here we are in January. Winter is fully underway. Trees have passed from green to red to bare. Flowers are gone. Birds and animals have retreated. Even children stay inside.
The Winter—in theology, in liturgy, in poetry—has always represented Death. Every year the Creation itself plays out the story of our own lives. Fresh new life sprouts forth in Spring, followed by a vigorous, green, lively Summer. In the Autumn, things slow down and the green fades, finally giving up its life to the barren Winter.
But that death of Winter is not the end. It’s a pause; it’s a sleep; it’s a sabbath. For Winter is always followed by Spring, and every year Life breaks forth anew in power and beauty. And every year, it’s more than a little shocking to watch the Creation come back to life. What looked dead is now alive.
The Creation itself magnificently tells the story of the Gospel. It’s no coincidence that the resurrection of Christ occurred in the Spring. The Spring is the season of resurrection; it is the reminder that new life follows death.
But the death of Winter is peculiar. Yes, Winter is barren and desolate. Yes, everything is dead. But there is also Beauty in Winter.
I’ve just relocated from the Deep South and on Saturday, I woke up to the aftermath of my first proper Winter storm. The picture above is what I saw when I walked out my back door. I was overwhelmed by the magnificent beauty of Winter. For the first time, I saw that snowflakes looked like SNOWFLAKES, each one individually crafted and unique and beautiful. My Facebook feed was filled with images of breathtaking ice sculptures courtesy of Mother Nature. What Mercy, to have such awe-inspiring Beauty in the midst of all this barrenness. What Grace to be reminded that God can make even Death beautiful. Death has been conquered. It is now a sleep, Paul tells us. And this Winter I have learned that it is a beautiful sleep.
But even more, I have seen that hidden in the midst of the Death of Winter is also a promise. When I looked out at the snow that covered everything as far as I could see, I was struck by how clean everything looked. It was as if overnight the whole Creation has been scrubbed clean. It was shiny and white and new. In the same way that I scrub my house clean in preparation for guests and holidays, the Creation was preparing too—for the next Act, for the Easter celebration, for the coming Resurrection.
That white, clean snow is the promise, not just of the coming Spring and Resurrection, but of a New Beginning. Because it’s not just that we were dead and are brought back to life—although that would be miracle enough. But God gives even more. Through Christ, we don’t just escape Death; we become New. We are made clean and become new creatures in Christ. We are shiny and white and clean, reborn with the Spring.