After morning coffee, I start the car and turn the defrost on, high and hot. It’s 23 degrees and a sheet of ice covers the windows. By the time I’ve gathered my things and loaded the car it’s warm and ready for the drive down to catch up with my daughter, son-in-law, and wife, who left at 3:30 AM when my pregnant daughter’s contractions could no longer be ignored. For reasons I can’t put into words, I need to be there when my first grandchild comes into the world.
There’s snow on the ground, the trees, the peaks, lit by the rising sun behind to create a riot of color. The drought and fires, so recent as a reality here, are long gone as first the rains washed all fear of inferno away and now the snow’s made all things new. Beauty is all around me, and by the time I get my phone connected to my music system for the 30 minute drive to the hospital, I’m overwhelmed by the glory of creation, shouting to me that indeed, all things will be made new if we wait long enough. When the music begins… Pandora has randomly chosen Handel’s “Messiah”. “Hallelujah!” Of course… how could it be anything else.
I’m driving yes, but really, it’s worship. This is because I’m mindful that, of all the months in my life, the one that needs to be made new more than any other is November. Long ago, my dad died suddenly in late October, and the chasm of loss was huge. We were watching the world series together on Tuesday and by Saturday morning he was gone. Baseball, and October, would never be the same.
…Until the the birth of my first child. Kristi came into the world on October 13th. We had to fly off San Juan island in a thunder storm to bring her into the world, and when we did, October was reborn. Taking away. Giving. Gain. Loss. Birth. Death. All are real. But when the giving and life happens, the beauty and joy of it cover like so much fresh rain and snow. Now October’s my favorite month.
But November, and Thanksgiving, have been muted in my life since clear back in 1995 when I got a call while teaching in Montana, that my sister had died suddenly of a heart attack. There were only two of us; Sue. Me. That is all. Gone at 42? We were just starting to be adult friends, just starting to talk about our childhood, not just the good memories, but the hard stuff too. My God. Why should someone sing your praises at a Thanksgiving service one night and be dead the next morning? Why should three nephews and a niece be motherless? Why?
And Thanksgiving’s been muted ever since, a constant reminder of loss rather than blessing, with the result that even though gratitude is supposed to be the order of the day, it’s always been muted at best.
But Hallelujah! “He has poured down for you the rain as before... (and) I will make up to you for the years the locust has eaten” There’ll be rain and laughter. The sorrows and loss of yesterday will be covered like so much snow on the brown, thirsty peaks. “Sorrow’s in the night, but Joy comes in the morning”
As I write these words in the hospital where my dear Luci has come into our beautiful world. November is redeemed, a reminder that when the grand story of our world is finished, all things will be made new.
And that is why I hope, and rejoice.
O Lord Christ
This month, as Paris, Beirut, and Mali remind us that senseless death is still woven into the fabric of our world, I pray that you would grant us eyes to see what is new. New rain. New seasons. New friends. New life. New snow.
And seeing, give us the courage and grace to rejoice without reservation, for these are the signs of what is, right here and now, and what ought to be, and what, we hope and pray and believe, will be, ultimately, for the whole universe.
We await a cosmos saturated with joy. May the foretaste you give us now not only be a cause for joy in itself; may it also be our confidence for the future.