Here in West Virginia as winter approaches, it is a time of excitement and uncertainty. The seasons speak to us as they do not in the more temperate climes. There is something elemental in these conversations on the edge of winter. People pass through on tours to observe the foliage, and to reflect on a year drawing soon to a close. In ancient cultures, this time of year was a period of in-gathering, a time of stock-taking. As the dead of winter came, there was also the fear that the world would not right itself, that spring would never come. There is, I suspect, deep in all of us a fear that this might yet occur.
For the Christian, however, there area number of things that tell us we can go forward unafraid. I think it is important that we remember them in the weeks ahead.
In the first place, we live in a world which God has called into existence. The affirmation that God called creation into being is one of those marks that sets Christians off from other people. We know why we are here; we believe that what we are a part of is no accident. At the dawn of time there was the hand of God moving, shaping, molding, creating; and we are a part of that creation.
So as the sun sinks, and winter slowly comes, we do not despair as others might who have no such understanding; the earth does not die with the coming of winter and neither do we.
Secondly, Christians affirm as fundamental that the Creator of this world in which we live has not abandoned it to the vagaries of chance. As difficult as it is, we must remember that God is acting in our world. His will is being worked out; that does not mean that the answers are always easy. When we cope with tragedy, guilt and death, life challenges us to understand how God can be at work in our world; at the same time it reminds us that at our best we control only a portion of the creation about us. The frightening thing about the symbolism of Fall is that lurking fear that life might not return, that the sun so low in the sky might not rise again, that the leaves so beautifully fallen may never again grace the trees.
Do you remember the story of Norman Thayer in On Golden Pond? The heart of the movie is about relationships and growing old. There is the rebirth of a family as the patriarch nears death. For Norman these are dark years; there is no light at the end of the tunnel and ultimately you recognize that for him the fear remains. That dark night is frightening to us all, loved or unloved, and we go into it gathering all the comfort we can.
As Christians, the words of Paul speak to us: “So do not lose faith even though our physical being is gradually decaying yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day . . . So we are always full of courage” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, 5:6).
We often fail to risk in our relationship with God. As Fall moves into Winter, we have no choice. We risk; we fear. We may also find comfort in our faith."