by Rev. John H. Farmer
What is winter weather?
Did you know that December winters in Bethlehem are and were always rather mild? There may be a few nights with a freeze or frost. However, they are not severe.
A Christmas carol that haunts me after the holidays is a weather-carol based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti (1830 –1894). Written before 1872, it first entered a hymnal in the early 1900s… Perhaps it is telling of my life-long disdain for cold weather…hum along with me for a few minutes: “In the bleak mid-winter frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak mid-winter long ago.
Already, we’ve had mild winter days, a deep snow season and now sweater-weather. Less than a month into 2017, I don’t know over which weather epoch to complain.
So, let’s move on to complaining about all our stressed Christmases past.
Are the decorations put away? Have we unwound the brittle greenery and tossed it? Did we get the ornaments off the tree? Was I careful to wind the lights in tangle-free loops? Did we make a biodegradable offering of the evergreen? Or, like me, did you smash the tree back into a crate and deposit it in the belly of some closet?
What about the Christmas cards? Did we ever really get through addressing them, or did we just quit? Have we finally taken the time to read all the cards and family newsletters, which we received? Whose presents were leftover?
Did holiday pounds pack on our hips? Did that one last piece of treat lap over our belt? Have we actually gotten control and begun that after-celebration diet about which so much conversation was invested?
My wife likens Christmas to childbirth—a subject foreign enough to me, mind you. Hazel says that every woman going through the birth emphatically states that there’ll be no more…. But, when love is tender and another new life comes along, moms forget that it will be through a threshold of pain. I am unqualified to make the analogy—though I profess to believe it is true.
The Bible recognizes that a lot of stress is because we get our priorities and ourselves out of whack. Read along with me, (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15): “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 up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.
That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.”
It is really the commercialization of Christmas that stresses us so. It has been written that Christmas is such an odd time, when the whole family gathers in their bed clothes to sit around a dead tree, eating out of their socks, making small talk about a old man who dresses in red velvet and communes with reindeer and elves?
My time with Ecclesiastes shows how out of phase I am at all seasons. My prayer life often is in sad repair. My calendar at times has everything on it but time with God.
Winter can be our very best friend. Nothing out of doors really needs our attention. Obligatory visitations of others are less important than before. We, like all of nature need rest, i.e. “a long winter’s nap.”
We can invest our reading in the Scriptures Holy. We can use the next few months to get ourselves and our priorities reoriented. We only need be busy about God’s schedule for our lives, not adverse seasonal adjustments. Seasons come and go, like the weather, friends and family.
Pray with me that God can get a hold of us this winter so sufficiently, that come spring we bloom anew.