One of my favorite parts of living in New York, and having lived in this general region of the country for most of my life, is witnessing the changing of the seasons. My senses are always awakened by the smells of the brisk fall air tinged with fallen leaves, the sights of bright untouched white snow, the smells of early spring pollen on the flowers, the unique taste of cold ice cream on a warm summer day. The turning of the seasons is one of my favorite of God’s little everyday wonders. I do not think that people appreciate it for what it truly is. These sensations are hardly replicable through any means other than experience, perhaps because the feeling is never a single moment or event or occasion, but an incessant pattern. Perhaps that is what makes it even more special, that God in all His wisdom was able to craft such a wonderful process into the very fabric of the earth. The majesty of these changes is declared from the very start of the creation. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Such is the tale that Genesis teaches us. Unsurprisingly, He also created the leaves that crunch beneath our feet in late autumn, as well as the snow that falls from the skies in the dead of winter. I feel myself luckier than most in that I get to experience a wide range of seasonal changes from my vantage point every single year.
As fall comes to a close and we draw nearer to the beginning of what is likely to be another frigid winter, I cannot help but become ever so excited for the usual highlights that this season brings. With cold winters come those cozy weekend nights indoors and the turn of the calendar year, campus-wide snowball fights, and most emphatically, Christmas and everything associated with this wonderful holiday. Each of the other three seasons carry similarly appealing qualities that never fail to excite me. However, it was only recently that I began thinking of these things in a completely different way. It is plain to see that we have lost the essence of Christmas over the years. Holiday songs, dazzling lights and gift-giving have all become synonymous with Christmas in our world of modern consumerism. And sometimes it is hard to think past all of these things that people associate with the holidays. I was thinking deeply about the real meaning of Christmas, behind all the commercialism associated with the holidays, and I recalled (sometimes it is easy to forget) that the purpose of this time is to remember the birth of Christ. Christmas is quickly rolling upon us, and it is essential to look at its current context because that is what led me to realize that in a way, the turning of the seasons quite rightly depicts aspects of God as the omnipotent being that He is.
In our ever-changing world, the seasons have become something that we can always expect. We wake up everyday knowing that the sun will rise and set at a certain time. And regardless of where on the earth we may be, we can always count on seeing it rise in the east and set in the west. God is like the rising and setting sun, ceaseless and constant even in the dark when it seems like He is not there. Though we go through consistent season changes and general patterns of daylight and nightlight, one can never quite predict what the weather will be like on any given day. The day to day weather is as fluctuating as the very existence of the seasons is, quite paradoxically, a constancy in our world. Such is the quintessence of everyday life. Such is nature. Such is God. “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation” (Psalm 33:11). This Bible passage leaves no question as to the absoluteness of His reign over the earth and the heavens.
As constant and unending as God is, much like the seasons themselves, many assert that He is portrayed differently throughout the Bible, and condemn the Holy book as being inconsistent in its message. No, I do not disagree with this characterization of God. However, I now see that this is not a bad thing; this understanding made me appreciate the multidimensionality of our Lord even more. This was a realization I came across in the moments when I made the connection between Christmas and the birth of Christ with the turn of the seasons, and it helped me see more clearly the interconnectedness of these seemingly separate entities. In many instances, most specifically in the Old Testament, we see portrayal of a jealous God, who punishes those who disobey him or worship false gods. A well known example points to Him disallowing the people of Israel from entering the Promised Land for forty years for practicing idolatry after being freed from bondage in Egypt, as told in Exodus. The tale of Noah’s Ark in Genesis likely stands as the most famous example of God striking down those who are disobedient. This often comes across as a difficult portion of the Bible for people to reconcile with certain parts of the New Testament.
Upon reading the New Testament, we see God portrayed very warmly. This is the God who, in New Testament books Matthew and John, heals the sick and offers salvation to all who accept Him and put Him first in their lives, the very same God who struck down sinners with his hand in Exodus and Job. This is a strange dichotomy that, once again, some find contradictory. One never questions the existence of the seasons, or doubts that autumn follows winter, which leads to spring and then summer, as absurd as it all sounds. But God shows Himself in a different way. The fact that we cannot hear or see or feel the presence of the Lord betrays our basic senses, the same senses I mentioned early on as evocative of the different phases of the year. People do not think of winter and summer as contradictory or in conflict with one another. Winter, though often cold and brutal and seemingly uninviting, brings about some wonderful things as well. In addition, it promises to turn into spring before too long, which promises to bring about warmth and regrowth. Perhaps it would do all of us better to start thinking of the Lord in this light.
We should also learn to trust God through the seasons of our own lives. “To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance . . . a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). The seasons are a cycle, as are the events that take place in daily life. It is inevitable that we will experience many summers and many winters. And often when we are in the dead of winter, it is easy to forget that spring is to later follow. But regardless of whatever season of our life we might be in, we can take security in the fact that we need only look up to the sky to find the sun shining overhead.