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.

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.

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.

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?!

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TAGS – resurrection, Easter, Spring, hope, eternity, promise, rebirth, glorification, angels