When the weather folks began predicting a Christmas Day Blizzard almost a whole week before Christmas, many of us scoffed. The last couple of winter storms were somewhat over-hyped and, while being a little inconvenient, were really not severe. Christmas Eve rolled around and church was cancelled, and we really began betting on there ending up being nothing worth cancelling church over. Christmas morning rolled around and we got a dusting of snow, or a couple of inches, but nothing worth getting too excited about, and we continued to doubt the meteorologists. But then came the wet precipitation, the ice, and Christmas afternoon finally arrived in a whirlwind of snow and wind. Travel was not advised on pretty much all of the highways in and around the Black Hills, I-90 was closed, and the Christmas Day Blizzard arrived as predicted.
Our mile-long driveway proved to be a hassle, and a lot of work went into shoveling parts of the driveway by hand on Monday, since the only person really familiar with the road grader is out of state for the time being. Trixie was in her element, and spent a good deal of the day tearing around to her little heart’s content. She loves the snow.
Some of us humans love the snow as well, the rushing cold, the gleaming white. Shortcuts through a pasture turn into comical flounderings in knee-high drifts. Walking up the road to Grandma’s takes extra effort, since every step forward on the slick snow costs you six inches in backsliding. Pant legs freeze solid. But it is winter. It is supposed to be like this. The hassle doesn’t get to us. Granted, we didn’t lose power or need to be anywhere. “Hassle” is almost too big of a word to use.
Yesterday was beautiful and it was no problem getting back and forth between our house and Grandma’s, where Mom and Dad are currently staying, and which is the hub for family festivities. But this morning the wind picked up, and all the work that went into digging out Monday was drifted over. I went up to Grandma’s to get some firewood for the Miner’s Cabin, and on the way down I hit a drift and slid off the road. In the process of trying to get it back on the road, it slid deeper off into knee-deep drifts, so my uncle and I spent the next hour or two digging it out!
Currently no vehicle, including the Jeep, can make it all the way up to Grandma’s, so we get as far as we can and then walk the rest of the way. One of the other four-wheel drive vehicles got a flat on the way up, and the other truck is snowed in over at my uncle’s house. Winds of 20-30 miles per hour are expected tonight. More digging out tomorrow.
But God is good. He gives us trials, such as having one’s day turned topsy-turvy in a snow drift, as a reminder that we do not carry out our plans or order our lives – He does. He also sends reminders of his goodness and grace, such as the beauty of blowing snow in the sunlight, blue skies, fresh, crisp country air, starry nighttime, family fellowship, puppy antics, and kittens purring.
Life is good. God is wonderful.
Christmas Day commemorates a turning point in history – It marks the beginning of the end of the story of redemption and reconciliation with our Creator God. Everything in the Old Testament, everything in history up to that night in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago, points to the coming of a Savior, the need of a Savior, the hope of a Savior. Everything in history since that night has pointed both back to that event, as well as forward to the longed-for day when Christ will return.
It is a day we celebrate with joy, sharing it with those we love, rejoicing, giving to those we love just as God in love gave us the gift of Himself, as the God-man Christ Jesus. He wasn’t just a tiny baby in a feeding trough, but He was God Incarnate, God Himself come to earth. God gave hope to the hopeless, life to the dying, grace to the wretched sinner, peace to the troubled. He stooped to earth in love, that we might be raised with Him, dying that we might have life. He came in the form of a sinless, helpless infant, with the purpose of saving His people from their sins.
Isaiah 7:14 reads: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel. God with us. Wonder at that. Marvel at that. Rejoice, and give God the glory.
Something about the snow enchants. The gleaming whiteness and the whisperings of snowflakes cast a spell of silent mirth. Snowfall finds the pup in the dog, the child in the human, and the magic in the air. The dull landscape of winter is transformed into a fairyland. The mundane is made fresh and new. What glory!From the storehouses of heaven, the snow is given, every drift, every flake. Each snowflake is a unique handiwork, proclaiming the glory of its Creator. Only a loving God would have given us beauty in a snowflake, or a snowfall. And down they fly, countless, peerless, and, as the day wears on, seemingly endless. Even a fall of rimed snow is glorious to behold.
Hills beyond hills fall away into a cloud of silvery grey. Trees rise stark against the white of the earth and the white of the sky and the brilliance of the air. The snow deepens. A breath of wind sweeps a drift. As simple and homely a thing as a coil of barbed wire becomes a thing of beauty in this landscape of changed colors and textures. New things are noticed, or old things are noticed anew – The faint and familiar grid of wire fencing, the grain of hundred-year-old wood, the color of old flower stems, the lantern hanging at the corner of the shop roof, the lichen on the fence boards, the rusted chain draped near a fence post, the snow-covered juniper and the white windowsill. Silence reigns in the falling snow. It is as if everything stops, except for the piling and mounding of snow, expectant, waiting. Windswept clouds of white curl off the roof and disperse, and drifts are coaxed into being. Every footstep is muffled. It is as if the world holds its breath to see what will happen next, to wake to a new world, a clean world, a renewed world. But in the silence there is a wildness, a pent-up energy, a joy waiting to burst forth. It’s in the air, and it gets into the blood, under the skin. Some bundle up and venture out into this frigid world, and are drawn into the spell. In a world enchanted, the cold seems less cold, the biting air seems sweeter, and the searing of each joyous breath is invigorating. The reverent, expectant silence of the snowfall is broken by peals of helpless laughter and sparkling mirth. Snow flies underfoot and overhead, and in the tumble and play of a snowy romp, we all become children again, carefree and snow wild.
Yes, there is life in winter. And what life!
Even in the winter, when the greenness of summer passes into slumber and the chill and silence settles in, even when the waking months of the growing seasons are long past, there is a life that lurks in wintertime, and not too hidden from our eyes. It is a quiet life, but a rollicking merriment, like peals of distant bells or a silent glint of laughter in smiling eyes. It is seen in the way the spider threads tangle up the slanting sun with the dried heads of bee balm. It is seen in the way the sunlight catches just so on ice crystals on a frozen stream. It is seen in the clear blue of icicles, or the swirling eddies of freshly fallen snow.The days are short and shorter, but moonlight casts her spell. What is more alive than a winter moon over a snow-gleaming landscape, the frost glinting and sparkling like innumerable stars fallen to earth? On a clear night, only the brightest of the heavenly stars can be seen, but every meadow becomes a new star field under the light of the waking moon. Deer and antelope and bison are heedless of the cold, rooting contentedly in the snowy grass, with blankets of snow resting on their backs. Clouds of warmth swirl from the mouths of anything that breathes. Creatures that were scruffy in the spring and summer are now fat and sleek. They have prepared for winter, and they accept it. Every sound rings through the crystal-cold air. There are the diminutive footprints and tail prints of mice, scampering over otherwise untouched snow, and careful footprints of deer. Golden grasses sway above the white of the snow. There are the memories of last summer’s wild roses. Spring will come again. But for now, winter lives.