What is the gift of even the longest, coldest winter?

November 27, 2021

By The Rev. Karen Hunter

Grace Episcopal Church (Nampa, Idaho)

This week we celebrated the Reign of Christ the King, the fulfillment of all expectation! Then we went, appropriately to the Thanksgiving table. There we gave thanks for an embarrassment of riches. Despite the hustle and bustle of preparation and house guests, we each found time to be swept to the holy, humble place of gratitude, recognizing, no matter how difficult some days have been, that we have been blessed beyond believing. We experience, in those moments, the breathtaking love of God, for each of us and all of us. And now it's Advent, the season of end times, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. We woke up this morning to news of a new COVID variant, rising inflation, wars and rumors of wars. There is indeed "distress among nations". People are "faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world". The land, metaphorically speaking, is cold and dark while the wind howls and we are "confused by its roaring". So, God in His mercy and wisdom calls us to prayer, to preparation, to contemplation, and, believe it or not, celebration! "All these signs are like the fig tree beginning to sprout leaves," Jesus tells us. "When you see the leaves sprouting, when you see these signs, summer is near---the Kingdom in near!" It's hard to wrap your head around this teaching of Christ. I struggle every Advent as we are asked to take four weeks to contemplate the experience of the world as we know it, shifting dangerously beneath our feet. This year it seems especially difficult as the challenges of our present circumstances threaten to overwhelm us. How do we "be on guard that our hearts are not weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the worries of this life"? What gift has God offered this year to open our eyes and illumine our hearts? What, in the winter of our existence, can keep us "alert and inspire the strength to escape all these things"? What is the gift of even the longest, coldest winter? I don't know what it is for you, but for me it is snow. Snow is this amazing miracle of millions and billions and trillions of tiny unique, intricate sculptures that make great piles of white, turning the brown, barren world of autumn into magic and mystery. It quiets the land, and all who behold it. It calls stillness into being and makes rest mandatory. It is transformative in its beauty, and it makes even the simple task of walking a new adventure. It inspires us even as it limits us. All life, in a snow covered world, must slow down, must contemplate, is interrupted and disturbed. The earth rests until the sun shines again and the snow melts and life begins anew. And this life is never the same as it was. It may be only slightly different than last year, but it is different. And we rejoice. This Advent I invited you to contemplate snow. Hold your favorite snowflake in one hand and then prayerfully ask the questions that trouble your heart. For instance, where in this very difficult time, is God's gift? What, in these dark days, is beautiful? How might this trying time somehow renew us and God's good world? Where will we see the Kingdom, experience transformation, be prepared for new life? What new thing is the Lord our God doing among us? What wondrous spring awaits?


About the author: Karen Hunter grew up on a dry land ranch in Montana. She is the oldest of eight children and has a love and understanding of the demands and blessings of the land. She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota in 1974 and taught school for about ten years in various locations including Bethel, Alaska. After creating and sustaining and alternative school for several years in Toston, Montana, she went to Arizona and began a master’s program in religious education. Intending to work in the Episcopal church as a lay person, she returned to Montana and served as the chaplain at the University of Montana in Missoula for five years. During that time she also worked as the director of religious education at Church of the Holy Spirit. She and Randy married in 1991 and moved to Deerlodge, Montana. About a year later, Karen became the lay vicar of St. Mark’s Church, Anaconda where she served for two years. While she was there she began the process toward ordination to the priesthood, but moved to Idaho where she was ordained two years later. She served at the vicar of Church of the Redeemer , Salmon and as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Salmon for many years before moving to Nampa to serve Grace Church. She has also served as the Canon for Christian Education and Formation for the Diocese of Idaho and was the editor of the diocesan monthly newspaper, The Messenger. She loves Randy, children, art, and quilting and is passionate about the place and possibilities of the church in our world. Reach Karen by email at gracechurchnampa@gmail.com



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