I always love when Easter comes late in April. By that time, the mountains are awake for Spring. Mother Nature, ever the stately old lady, needs proper time to dress herself. She never has her best things out in March.
Everyone I know in Appalachia has to deal emotionally with the advent of autumn. Some who suffer from chronic depression especially struggle when the leaves fall, and they face months of barren trees. Because the Appalachian Mountains are one large deciduous forest, the leaves are the glory of the hills. When they fall, the place feels like it has become “ichabod” – the glory has departed (1 Sam 4:21).
A glimpse of Fall near the Tennessee/North Carolina state line:
A somewhat bleaker landscape.
Mother copes with the dinginess of winter by pointing out that cold weather is peak time for stargazing, and that you can see more stars when the leaves aren’t blocking the view. She doesn’t use binoculars or a telescope; she just likes to stand outside and look at them.
My take is a little different. Our mountain roads come with a hundred and one lovely vistas. These too are sometimes obstructed by the leaves of the trees closest to the road. Literally, you can’t see the mountains for the leaves! When the leaves fall, it’s worth driving the mountains in winter to see the unexpected views.
Even so, I find winter a little dreary in the hills. The mountains, stripped of foliage, are grand, but not always beautiful. What finally reconciled me to winter was reading about that season as a “rest” period for the trees. They are massive factories – recycling air, producing food, and constantly processing the chemical changes necessary to keep such a large plant alive. Photosynthesis can really take it out of you. It isn’t just that the cold weather denies the tree the opportunity to flourish; the tree needs several months of inactivity in order to thrive during the rest of the year.
Our own seasons are much like this. We look upon death as a ghastly specter haunting our futures. I don’t know anyone who joyfully anticipates old age and demise. And yet our own Last Fall is a necessary transition – so necessary that Jesus Himself did not shrink from death, but bore out His humanity to a bitter end. “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (John 10:17 ESV). He died deliberately, intentionally to fulfill a purpose. For our salvation, He set aside life and then took it up again.
AND THEN TOOK IT UP AGAIN! Not for us the empty sorrow of those who see this life as all we have. “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19, ESV). It is fitting for many reasons that we should have Easter in the Spring, but largely that we should not forget the purpose of Spring itself. The whole season bears witness to a truth that every culture on earth has recognized. Death does not overcome life. There is something immortal in every man or woman that the grave is not strong enough to swallow up. As Christians, we know that the true hope of this is found in Christ whose death paid for our sins, and whose resurrection conquered the curse of death that sin brought into the world: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22, ESV)
If our faith is in Christ, Who is the resurrection and life, our own rebirth is as sure as the Spring. This was enough to make even the serious and scholarly apostle break forth into song:
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Cor 15:55-57 (ESV)