Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Season of Death Is Upon Us (Already)

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV)

I hate winter. Let me rephrase that with a stronger word. I detest winter. I will tolerate snow until Christmas. But then it can just go away.

Living in the Upper Peninsula means having to deal with your fair share of the white stuff. Every year we play a little game called "Can We Make It Without Snow Until After Halloween?" This year, we were losers. We've been losers before. I recall several Halloweens where my $10 plastic costume from Shopko with the paper mask whose string always broke before lunch hour was stretched and ripped over snow pants, winter jackets, hats, gloves, and boots as we hopped in Mom's car to go trick-or-treating. (We lived in the country ... we had to be driven from driveway to driveway.)

The powder of death...the non-Narcos variety

There are lessons to be learned with every harsh winter that falls upon the U.P. ... and wherever else it may happen to fall. Solomon is right when he says "For everything there is a season." But sometimes those seasons of death ... plucking up ... killing ... breaking down ... weeping ... mourning ... they come sooner than expected. You know that there will always be death and grief. You know that there will be times in life that are filled with sorrow. Yet even though we know that they will come, they still manage to sneak up on us. Like a wintry covering over the leaves that have yet to be raked.

I envy the people who delight in winter. My Facebook feed is filled with those knuckleheads who have been counting the days until Christmas since June ... those who are for some reason excited to have to put on boots and hats to go out the door when we should still rightly be enjoying autumn. Winter is indeed a time of death. It's a time when measures must be taken to protect ourselves from the elements. It's a time when plant life gives up the ghost. It's a time when animals struggle to find food and some (hopefully those with many-pointed antlers) will end up in our freezers.

And still in the middle of all of this death, so many people find joy in winter. Christmas gifts and celebrations with families. Beautiful ice formations hanging from tree branches. Reasons to stay inside and keep warm with loved ones. Seeing the homes and businesses covered in lights. Even in the middle of death, life and joy can be found.

This is one of the many mysteries of how God Almighty works. He reveals Himself in the middle of what seems to be only death. His mercy is shown to someone going through turmoil. His compassion is given to someone riddled with guilt. His saving Gospel is proclaimed at the "walking dead" gathered on a Sunday morning. His promise of resurrection comforts the grieving at the death of a loved one.

God saved humanity through death. The cross isn't the source of our grief. It's the source of our unending joy. Crosses adorn our necks, our homes, and our church buildings as a reminder of that great joy purchased by the One who hung upon it. He became death. He became the cursed One. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

When everything around you is death, look for life in the God who brings life even in the darkest seasons. Find life in Christ our Lord. And remember that every season of darkness meets its end in Christ. There is indeed "a time for every matter under heaven." And the deep winter of sin that covers this world will melt away when our Lord Jesus returns in glory.

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