I’m really not a fan of January, and I’m glad to see it go. February, at least, holds some excitement. Today, for example, even as I am writing, somewhere in the frozen eastern United States a thousand brilliant people are standing outdoors cheering on a grumpy groundhog named Phil, wondering if this stuporous rodent, so unceremoniously removed from hibernation, will be able to predict the weather in the entire United States for the next six weeks. Now that’s pretty exciting stuff. Phil bats .500, as a rule. This is high winter drama indeed, but, after today, February kind of returns to the same mid-winter malaise as January.
I’m not depressed. Really. Not much anyway. This is just Jim in winter, after Christmas. I love Christmas, and I especially love the lights. (If I had been born a bass, my penchant for shiny and sparkly things would have quickly sealed my doom!) Each year I fight my own little rebellion against the stark, bland, blackness of winter by leaving my Christmas lights on much longer than the average neighbor. There’s just something reassuring and winsome about turning the corner onto Everett Street as I head home and there my lights shine, a collective beacon of hope in the drab darkness. It welcomes and reassures me, while at the same time probably reassuring my neighbors that the local pastor is a bit…. strange.
All of this to back up the sad fact that last week I surrendered to winter as I succumbed to said neighborly (and wife-ly) peer pressure and the tyranny of the calendar, and I took down my outdoor lights, a task I find as enjoyable as, say, doing tax prep. I carefully evicted them from trees and shrubs and neatly coiled each string, where I laid it like a wreath of expired joy on the bleak dead brown freeze-dried Bermuda grass. But I’m not depressed.
It is, of course, necessary to put away Christmas stuff or it wouldn’t be special at Christmas. If it was never dark, never cold—well, we wouldn’t appreciate the power of light and the sanctity of warmth. It is unavoidably true in our lives that there are going to be seasons bright and shiny and warm and joyous—while others are “January” times—winter. Cold. Hard. Brittle. Grey. It’s just life. And thankfully it’s just a season. And all seasons pass. The nights are already getting shorter, the brave daffodils have already stuck their own tender shoots skyward, as if cheering on the grumpy groundhog and betting, foolishly perhaps, that there will not be six more weeks of winter. The tree and rose bush limbs in my yard are pregnant with buds, and the warmer days of late have the henbit and dandelion armies poised for their yearly coup attempt against the dictatorial Bermuda grass. Winter has just about had its say, and spring will soon overthrow it.
The Bible says something in terms of a natural covenant, very early in its pages: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22) That is a guarantee from God that some things continue to change, just according to schedule, as they always have. It’s also a proof that God and his decrees for nature, seasons and cycles, will endure as long as the earth endures. The cycle of change, I guess you could say, is a powerful statement that He won’t, that He doesn’t –that this God who ordains the seasons and tells them when to shift—is just as constant and just as involved in the simple and not-so-simple details of our daily lives. And that puts us in good hands.
So it’s dark again on my street and maybe the neighbors have stopped wondering so much about my odd-ness. January’s over and February won’t last. And, word on the streets in Philly is that Phil–the “prognosticator of all prognosticators”-did indeed not see his shadow, and is predicting an early spring. You go Phil! I hope you’re right!