In 1623, William Shakespeare wrote a far-fetched play entitled ‘The Winter’s Tale’, borrowing heavily from the plot of Robert Greene's pastoral romance ‘Pandosto’, first published in 1588. Part tragedy and part comedy, it spoke of the deep pain that is caused by separation and the wasted years when relationships break down. Despite the sorrow of the first three acts involving jealousy, accusation, death and injustice, things turn out well in the end. The two fathers, Leontes and Polixenes seem spiritually dead and have lost all ability for feelings. However, there is a resurrection at the end and joy as reconciliation comes through Florizel and Perdita in the next generation. Winter is the season when structures are revealed as trees shed their leaves and you see their essence. This tale echoes this process in a fanciful story but God’s story does it in stark reality as relationships are redeemed through from his son’s work on a bare tree.
- ‘I prefer Winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn't show’ – Andrew Wyeth
- ‘Even in Winter an isolated patch of snow has a special quality’ – Andy Goldsworthy
- ‘In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in Winter enjoy’ – William Blake
- ‘While I relish our warm months, Winter forms our character and brings out our best’ – Tom Allen
There’s a lot more going on in Winter than mere skating, snowballs, snowmen, sledging and skiing. A good gardener is active with pruning, composting, digging, dead-heading, dividing bulbs, clearing leaves, watching out for the birds and taking care not to skewer hibernating animals on the compost heap. Hedgehogs, bats and dormice hibernate for up to six months to solve the problem of finding scarce food in Winter months. During this time, the animal’s body temperature drops, its heartbeat and breathing slow down so that it does not use much energy as it strips back to just vital processes. For these animals, the priority is survival; for trees it’s about making way for new growth and replenishing the soil around their bases at the same time. Even loss can have its own beauty and be a time of gain. Among humans, the Winter of life is far from negative although many of us seem to dread the gradual onset and often go into denial. Aging seniors can obsess about holidays, tans, fitness, makeup, dying hair, wigs, dental crowns and pay fortunes on nips, tucks and lifts! Even the most glamorous actress and the most handsome actor will have to face their Winters. Far better to embrace the four seasons of life and walk with the Lord through each one, asking him to give faith and grace for each one.
- ‘But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare’ – 2 Peter 3:10
- ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account’ – Hebrews 4:13
- ‘It is in the plan that all men die once. After that, they will stand before God and be judged’ – Hebrews 9:27
- ‘For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life’ – 2 Corinthians 5:1-4
Is it not an irony that the things we humans tend to view as permanent are not whereas the things that are permanent often have little value placed on them? Understandably, we get very attached to our bodies but we know there comes a time when we will have to lay them down. The reality is that the whole journey of life is a preparation for the moment when the mortal gives way to the immortal. Winter is therefore a key season in physical life to prepare for the transition to the resurrection body promised to those who have faith in Christ, the ‘firstborn from the dead’. The clothing we ‘wear’ here is not appropriate for the first moment after death and would prevent us getting ‘into Heaven’. The glorified body which gains access comes with robes of righteousness, paid for and designed by the Lord of Life who faced and conquered even death for our sakes.
- ‘Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a ‘dead’ seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it doesn’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different’ – 1 Corinthians 15:35-37 (The Message)
- ‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord’ – Romans 12:17-19
Winter especially is a time to consider the state of your relationships with others and with God. Even if there has been some loss and even breakdown, this is The Season to restore, to forgive and to check your heart to be at peace with all ‘so far as it depends on you’. Whilst you won’t take your wardrobe with you, your character and level of maturity in Christ are part of your eternal future. In the setbacks, losses and trials of life that are common to all, the leaves are stripped bare to reveal the framework and true strength of our lives. There’s no end to what we can become in Christ but there’s a sorry end to what we come to outside of relationship with Christ. This tree in Winter has the promise of a coming Spring and so do all of those who are in Christ – could it be the reason for the season?!
TAGS – resurrection, Easter, Spring, hope, eternity, promise, rebirth, glorification, angels