Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord… Lev 25:2
This weekend we rolled back the clocks from sunshine and joy to dark and depressing. There is an old apocryphal saying often attributed to the native Americans that says, “Only a foolish man will cut the top of a quilt and sew it to the bottom and think it is longer.”
While I do love that “extra hour” of sleep, daylight savings is the foreboding precursor of a season of darkness. Christmas is often festive and enjoyable, but the twinkling lights soon give way to the drudgery of Jan and Feb.
The curse of Narnia was described as “Always winter, never Christmas.” What’s more, many people feel the weight of seasonal affective disorder, appropriately acronymized as “SAD.” We leave for work in the dark, spend the day in the office, and return home… in the dark. 5:30 feels like midnight and the cold winter air certainly does not invite us outdoors. Dark. Cold. Bare. Indeed, bleak…
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
– Christina Rossetti
Some years ago, however, my perspective of winter changed. Sabbath, as you know, is a biblical concept that begins in the days of creation and runs throughout Scripture, ultimately culminating in the eternal Sabbath of the New Heavens and Earth. Israel was commanded to keep the Sabbath, a day of rest and refreshment – it typified so much more than a day of rest – It points us to Christ, who finally and fully gives us the rest our weary hearts so desperately long after. But, not only was Israel to keep the 4th commandment, they were also to let the ground rest every 7 years. Moses writes that, “the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord.” The earth, the ground, was to keep a Sabbath! The Israelites were not to “sow the field or prune the vineyard” (Lev 25:4). Yahweh told them to let the ground rest.
Spring is a season of life and resurrection. Summer is a season of joy and work and daylight. Autumn is a time of harvest. And winter, well, winter is a Sabbath. It is a season that slows us down and almost forces us into a time of contemplation and longing. As humans, we like to go, go, go. Winter says, “stop.” Winter says, come away and sit with me for a while.” Winter turns down the lights and leaves us in a season of quiet, unseen meditations. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen 8:22). In God’s kind providence, is it not possible that he has given us winter as a gift of common grace, allowing us to slow the rhythms of our life? And what would he have us do in this season? Rest. Pray. Meditate. Read. Abide.
Yes, winter is dark. Yes, winter is cold. But winter is also a blessing. Soon, Spring will come bringing Resurrection Day and all of the joy of life and rebirth. But until then, we let the ground rest.
May the Lord Cause His Face to Shine Upon You This Week,