Forget about the calendar. Winter is the longest season. A North Country winter is custom made waiting. Just as most of nature slumbers through the cold, we can’t seem to help ourselves from snuggling into flannel sheets earlier and earlier as daylight hours shrink. I simultaneously look forward to and dread winter each year, an internal tug-of-war once revealed in “Winter’s Gift“.
But winter and I have made friends / For all of the reasons that defy friendships / To develop in spite of our differences
I’ve learned to accept her moodiness / And to ignore her bad behavior because / On her good days she is simply stellar
The beautiful synergy between our longest, darkest season and Advent always encourages me. Generations came and went, kings and kingdoms rose and fell, as God’s people longed for the promised one. Over centuries of spiritual darkness, they hoped and longed for the light.
Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. … The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine. Isaiah 9:1-2
That ancient season played out on an intergalactic scale, a game-changing wait over hundreds of years with implications to eternity. We know the end of the story and how God proved faithful as the darkness of death was eradicated. Perhaps as a result, something deep within me responds during this annual season of hopeful longing.
The North Country sets a perfect stage for Advent reflections. The sun drops below the horizon increasingly earlier as fall slips into winter. Dusk darkens quickly into an inky blackness extending from the riverbank in one direction to forest in the other. Our home perches on the knoll in between, snug and tight against the night. As temps drop we hunker down inside, weary to the bone, relieved for respite of evening. We wait for light of morning and long for the warmth of spring.
The light of day chases darkness away, always faithfully even if hesitantly. Sometimes winter’s sunlight is thin and weak, canvasing the landscape with an ethereal, otherworldly glow. Under perfect conditions, steam rising from the river crystalizes on every stalk, twig and leaf, gloriously transforming the landscape.
Often the North Country day breaks behind the ridge across the river in a blush of peachy pink that takes my breath away. The rising sun streams bold and bright, stark against brazen blue skies. It bounces off ribbons of ice between the banks and skips across snow-dusted cornfields. Cornstalks lie close-cropped and stubbled like an old man’s beard, tripping it up along the way.
Sooner or later, sister sun peeks in my window, calling me out of my cocoon, urging me into my coat and boots for a wake-up walk. I trudge across the fields to the riverbank, marveling at how the mundane has been transformed to exquisite overnight. When in a whisper the morning light transforms snow crystals to diamond dust, I can hardly bear the beauty.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:12
The 2018 advent season was particularly poignant because the entire year seemed relatively dark with difficulties. One after another, they began in March and piled up until we wondered if we would ever see the end. Inching along unsteadily these many months, invariably, a flash of light swept the pathway to lend encouragement at just the right time. Inspired by these brief illuminations — generous kindnesses, good words, new solutions, wise counsel, fateful conversations, thoughtful considerations — we’ve pressed on, confident in our source of hope.
We may not have seen the end of this season of trials but we are being transformed on the journey. Winter is accomplishing her purpose; we wait for the land to return to fruitfulness. Meanwhile, we will walk in the light.