"Each winter as the year grows older..."

“Each winter as the year grows older,

we each grow older, too.
The chill sets in a little colder;
the verities we knew seem shaken and untrue.”

So begins a poem by William Gray that eventually was turned into an Advent carol. I do not know if it is the seemingly colder than normal winter we are having so far, or other life experiences, but the older I become the more I relate to this first verse.

A few years ago my grandmother and both of Linda’s grandmothers died within a few months of each other. And among the many feelings and thoughts during that time came a deeper understanding of what it means that neither one of us has any living grandparents. A generation is now past in our family histories, it was a loss for us personally and for our children. Even more startling, we became aware we are moving up that family tree. In the past, we could more easily fool ourselves that we were younger than we were. After all, we still had living grandparents and parents. Now we just have our parents ahead of us. In many ways our reality of life had become “shaken and untrue.”

Recently a friend from college casually made the comment, “Did you know that many of the members of the college classes of 2014 were not even born when we graduated college?”

“No,” I responded. “I did not know that, and would have liked it if I still did not know that little tidbit of information.” For the life of me I can not seem to grasp that this fact is even possibly true. Yet it is, and I wonder how it has been over 21 years since I graduated from college. Part of me thinks I could walk through the Gustavus campus today and most of my professors would recognize me. But the reality is that many of my professors are now retired, some have even died. And those who are still around would not have the foggiest idea of who I am. This coming year is not just a year that will hold many opportunities, joys, sorrows, and blessings. It will be a year in which I will continue to “grow older too.”

Like other people, I usually struggle during the month of January with what could best be described as a “spiritual funk.” I am sure part of it has to do with a ‘letdown’ of sorts after all the busyness of December. I usually end up getting so busy that when New Year’s Day comes around I wonder where did the “holiday season” go. It seems just like yesterday that we celebrated Thanksgiving and I had all these plans of things we were going to do during the holidays. “Maybe next year” I tell myself as I try to forget that is what I said last year. Then there is the fact that January is typically the coldest month of the year, and each year January seems to get colder. In the end I don’t know if it is just one thing that brings on my “spiritual funk.”

I realize as I write this many of you are saying, “just wait.” Wait till your children graduate from college, much less high school. Or wait till our parents have died and you become the ‘oldest’ generation ~ then you’ll really know what it feels like to “grow older too.” And I know you are right. Time can be so cruel.

I would love to believe that this January is going to be different. Maybe it will. Then again maybe this year will be the year that I will say that I like lutefisk too (don’t count on it)! But even amidst the “spiritual funk” I will try to have hope. After all February is coming, then pitchers and catchers report, then before you know it’s March and signs of new life will be all around. But until then I think I will cling to this poem, which by the way ends with these words...

Yet I believe beyond believing,
that life can spring from death,
that growth can flower from our grieving,
that we can catch our breath and turn transfixed by faith.

So even as the sun is turning,
to journey to the north,
the living flame, in secret burning,
can kindle on the earth and bring God’s love to birth.

O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
brighten today’s world by tomorrow’s,
renew our lives again; Lord Jesus come and reign!

Happy New Year! God’s Blessings to You in 2014. See You in Church!

Pastor Joel


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