January 13, 2015

The Colors of Winter

Some days I look out my window, and absolutely love the winter time! When the ground is blanketed with snow, and that whitest of carpets is muting the sounds of the world round about, and all is quiet, and still, and bright … on those days, I am certifiably in love with winter! Especially with a warm mug of apple cider in hand!

But then there are other days, when the snow is gone away, and the landscape is a barren brown, and the sky is a lonely gray, and the scene outside my window is frankly hard to look at. Sometimes it can tempt the soul to morph into the same cheerless tones.

But the varying colors of winter all have their place. Both the sparkling white and the desolate brown of winter have their place in God’s plan.

The white we contemplated on a Wednesday night a few weeks ago – as a picture of the forgiveness of our sins (Isaiah 1.18), and as a reminder of the radiant glory of our God (Daniel 7.9-10, Revelation 1.12-16). Read those passages again … and think about them the next time the yards begin to be filled with snow. Do not look on the falling flakes merely as an obstacle to your commute, but as a real-life illustration both of the glory and of the gospel of our God!

But what about winter’s brown? What’s the point of that? Is there a point to all this bleakness? Well, the prophet Isaiah would remind us that the browns and beiges of the winter scene are there to remind us of our own mortality (Isaiah 40.6-7):
“All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.”
With Isaiah’s explanation in mind, I’m not sure the browns and beiges of winter are supposed to necessarily be beautiful. We should still see the handiwork of God in them, of course. And there is always a splendor in that! But the darker tones of winter are in total contrast to the verdure and green of the spring and summer! And they are meant to be! For they are the colors of withering, and of death. And God included them in His color pallet, and paints them onto the canvas each winter, to remind us that there will be a winter for us someday, too. There will be a time when our own bodies will wither just like the last roses of autumn. “All flesh” – your flesh and my flesh – “is grass”. And the fact that this is so should motivate us to hope in something more permanent; something that will last; something that is evergreen amidst the barrenness and russet of winter. And Isaiah tells us what that something is (Isaiah 40.8):
“The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”
Here is our hope in the midst of a world in which everything will eventually fade to winter – “the word of our God”, which is ever green, and never languishing through a winter season, and always producing fruit! And for those who put their hope in that word – and in the incarnate Word about whom it is written – well, for them, the winter will indeed be only a season. The grass of our flesh will indeed wither. But in the springtime of Christ’s return it will sprout anew, never to fail again.

So, if you belong to Christ, you need not fear the withering of your flesh, nor close the shades to the barren colors of winter that foreshadow it. For your sins have been washed “as white as snow”; and your flesh will someday sprout afresh from the earth like the flowers of spring. And the grey of winter will forever give way to the full light of the Son.

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