For winter’s rains and ruins are over,… And frosts are slain and flowers begotten, And in green underwood and cover Blossom by blossom the spring begins. Swinburne (1865)
As the month of March begins in our part of God’s world, many people look forward to the coming of spring. The winter has been cold and damp with snow and freezing rain.
March is an unpredictable month. As the old saying warns, March may come in like a lamb and roar out like a lion, or do the very opposite. Through all the ups and downs of March weather, we still believe that Spring will come with warm sunshine and buds on trees. We still have hope.
Last March, we suddenly realized that dark clouds were on the horizon. A new virus was making people seriously ill and spreading around the globe with alarming speed. In our communities, our social lives were shut down. Places to gather, such as restaurants, shopping malls, houses of worship, were closed. It all seemed strange and unsettling, but we believed it would last only a few weeks.
This March, we look back on a year of anxiety, hardship and sorrow. This pandemic has changed the lives of people across Canada. Thousands of people mourn the deaths of loved ones. Thousands of people have lost their livelihoods. And yet, we still have hope as we care for each other. Exhausted doctors and nurses continue to care for the sick and the dying. Scientists tirelessly pursue new treatments and vaccines to combat the disease.
Some people have refused to follow health guidelines, but the majority wear masks and refrain from close contact with others. Face masks in the general population have become symbols of community care and sometimes fashion statements. Neighbours continue to reach out to neighbours. Family and friends find ways to send love through virtual means or old-fashioned ways of phone calls, cards or an apple pie left on the front porch.
In our church calendar, March is in the season of Lent, a time of introspection to search for God in our lives. Lent also is a time of anticipation of the most Holy Week in our Christian year, the week in which we walk with Jesus from adulation as he entered Jerusalem to a brutal death days later and finally to his miraculous resurrection from an empty tomb. Lent is when we prepare to be amazed again at the promise of God’s love for all humanity.
The word ‘Lent’ originated in old German, Dutch and English cultures meaning ‘Spring’, the season to celebrate and give thanks for the renewal of life in our earthly world. We naturally long for spring to lift our hearts from the heaviness of a cold, dark winter. Every spring we smile at green shoots in the soil, robins building nests and blossoms on trees.
Through the past year, we have struggled with loneliness and anxiety as the pandemic prevailed with no end in sight. We need more reasons to smile, to give thanks for blessings and to see God with us in the promise of spring.
The poetic excerpt which opens this article is similar to a wonderful passage in the Biblical Song of Solomon. The words remind us that God’s renewal of the earth will renew our strength and hope in the days and months to come.
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. (2:10,11)