After a reprieve yesterday that saw melting snow and ample sun, I look out of my window this morning and it is once again winter in Chicago. It is easy to be dismayed by this when I see the superlatives. In over 130 years of record keeping, this winter is the city’s third snowiest and third coldest. Granted we did not get a single day pounding of snowfall like I saw here in 1999 and 2011, but the cumulative effect is worse. 2014 has a been a barrage of days with enough snow to beat one down and when the snow doesn’t fall, there is this thing called a polar vortex which has made for plenty of days with wind chill warnings and record lows.
It is easy to be dismayed, but not really. Yesterday reached the mid-forties, later today we will get above freezing, and by Monday it may be 50. Meteorological winter is over and soon we will have the spring equinox. Yesterday the parking lots became pools and the streets were streams. Patches of green were to be seen next to buildings and great clumps of snow feel from leafless limbs. Soon Aslan will return to Narnia and the White City Chicago, being much less white, will erupt in play. Soon, but not yet.
It is a peculiar time, this trembling toward spring. The great Icelandic writer Halldor Laxness marks it as the most dangerous time of year when the threat of starvation was very real for the stored crops of the previous year are gone and the new crops have not yet come on. It is a peculiar time too because hope springs eternal with the warming temperatures and hints of the sun invite us out of our hovels. Yet at no point in the year are we closer to a time to die.
The Church calendar makes this clear. It is dying time even as it is hopeful. It is Lent after all. We are dying to our old selves as we celebrate that Christ died for us. Just as the storehouses have been emptied out and we give our bodies over to sacrifice, we know that He emptied himself out for us even as He made that ultimate sacrifice. We also know that from this dying life springs and it is a life without end.
So it is a peculiar time. There is still snow on the ground and the trees are bare, but spring is here and having assumed the guise of winter, it will cast winter off allowing the base and cruel season to die so that summer may be born. Like the spring, Lent invites us to let our sinful nature die that the beauty of summer may be born in us. To accomplish this we have the ultimate friend and ally in Him who assumed all of our sin and put that to death that who we are meant to really be may be brought to life.
The crops will soon grow again and the storehouse will be filled. Tables will be laden with good things and the air will be warm. Winter will have lost as the summer swallows it up. And soon our old selves will be lost too as we are made into a new creation, an Easter people. Soon that is, but now it is Lent….the peculiar time….where the old is being emptied out and awaiting for the new to be born.
Image by Tony Atkin, Creative Commons