always take the weather with you

i’ve just returned from Kyneton – about an hour out of Melbourne – where i was spending the day with prison chaplains. There was a haze of smoke from a bushfire a couple of hundred kilometres away hanging over us all day. It laid a red tint over the gum trees, which are really the only vaguely green thing left in the country, and blended seamlessly on the horizon with the soil in the paddocks. The earth here is gasping for water.

i read some beautiful words somewhere yesterday on the web about advent. i don’t remember where they were or i’d link. They were linking the anticipation of christmas to the advent of winter … and then finished with the words to the song “In the bleak midwinter”. It really was beautiful.

I was instantly aware, of course, of the contextual nature of the post. At Easter and Christmas those of us from the southern hemisphere have to interpret much of what we read from the northern hemisphere, because so many of the resources and reflections are based around the seasonal context. it’s always somewhat tiresome to have to interpret christmas carols and poetry within an Australian summer . To be honest, I also cringe a little at the carols which are written about dusty northern winds too – they strike me as trying too hard, swinging a pendulum too far the other way (and really, can anyone reach that high E?).

Truth is, while Bethlehem may be in the northern hemisphere, we have no idea what date Jesus’ birth was. We don’t know if he was born into heat or cold. the dates chosen for christmas have nothing to do with actual historical events. Which means that Christmas has nothing to do theologically with a bleak midwinter. Like easter has nothing to do with spring. It’s a random, convenient choice of dates. Which is probably only dangerous if at some point we get confused between a convenient metaphor and reality, and the metaphor becomes our theology… we have to search harder than the weather to find out what this season is about.