Seasons of Change
For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
…a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance…
We are in a time of change…a movement from the rich warmth of summer to the crisp coolness of fall. Leaves on the maple tree outside my office window have changed to vibrant colors of yellow and red. One by one they let go of their branches and drift lazily to the ground below. There is sadness within as I watch the vitality of the tree slowly slip away. With the loss of its leaves come fewer and fewer gold finches to dine at the thistle feeder. The birds that do come to feed are no longer dressed in the vibrant yellow plumage of spring and summer. Their coloring has dulled and their energy waned. The pesky squirrel that so busily ran up and down the tree roosting on the birdfeeder and nibbling at fallen seeds has taken leave of the tree. A stark nakedness emerges and much of what gave me pleasure in the midst of summer is gone.
I miss the brilliance of the tree and the activities of its inhabitants, who lifted my spirits and nurtured my soul. Autumn is a glaring reminder that all living things—trees, birds and we included—go through seasons of change. Our lives are given new meaning when we take time to reflect on the changes we experience, to grieve our losses (both large and small), to stay awake to the beauty that exists even in the darkness of transition, and to look for the light that guides us to new hope.
Stark though it may be, the essence of the tree remains. Though I cannot see it on the surface much takes place within the tree that enables it to bloom rich and beautiful in the coming spring. For now, however, I must come to appreciate the beauty of its nakedness. As I do this the tree gifts me with new pleasures—watching an industrious spider build its web, contemplating the few remaining leaves that grasp tenaciously to the tree branches, noticing the shape and beauty of the seeds hanging from the branches.
As a Christian people we have recently transitioned from the season of Pentecost or “ordinary time” and are now entering the season of Advent…a time of waiting with hope and expectation. It strikes me as both interesting and thought provoking that we journey through Advent during the starkest time of the seasonal year; and we celebrate the birth of Jesus in the very midst of our darkest days. It has been my experience that God brings new life out of the dark, cold, naked starkness of transition times. During times of personal transition, as I stand looking into the window of my soul and watching the vibrance of my life temporarily drift away, I find it helpful to remember that Jesus came into our world out of the darkness to show us a new way. I think it is not beyond symbol that we celebrate Christmas at this time of the year. Perhaps we can find spiritual and emotional support in the realization that it was a barren winter night when God brought God’s people out of the darkness and into new light and life with the birth of God’s son, Jesus.
Wishing you a season of new birth,