As we headed for church on that cold, winter Sunday, we saw that the heavenly Artist had been busy again.
Overnight he had transformed our world into a crystal garden. Brilliant sunshine sparkled off the hoarfrost clinging to trees and bushes, houses and fields.
Then, rounding the corner at Turkey Hill, we stared in amazement at a phenomenon we had never seen before. A winter rainbow.
Shining through a cloud of ice crystals rising from Lake Ontario, the light of the sun created a corona of colour. To the left and right of the cloud the colours were most intense except where, in the centre of their arc, it seemed as if two dazzling new suns blazed forth.
Promise and hope
Whatever the scientific explanation of this corona of refracted light, the effect was breathtaking. It was as if Christ, ‘who is the radiance of God’s glory’ (Hebrews 1:3), was giving us a preview of his return in glory to this sad world.
In his Revelation the apostle John writes of falling down in worship before Christ whose ‘face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance’ and whose throne is encircled by a rainbow (Revelation 1:16; 4:3). Picture language, of course. How much more glorious will the reality be!
The rainbow signals promise and hope. God gave it to Noah as a sign of his covenant of mercy following the great flood (Genesis 9:12-15).
But a rainbow in a Canadian winter! When the maples stand stark and bare? When the earth lies in the frigid clutches of ice and snow? When the sun rises late and sets early? When north winds rattle the windows?
Our corona was a promise that winter is not the end. It precedes the spring. Beneath the ground, vibrant life waits to spring forth.
In the stark maples, sap awaits the stirring that will inevitably come. Slumbering raccoons, chipmunks and bears await the warming sun.
Winter is not devoid of hope. Winter is a waiting time. Winter is expectation. Winter is the faint light before the dawn – as if even nature stands on tiptoe waiting breathlessly for the coming of the Son of Man.
Meanwhile, many of us face our own personal season of winter. Dimming eyesight. Aches and pains in new places. Ebbing strength. More frequent visits to the doctor. Tests. Cancer. And then that last enemy – death.
And yet if our trust is in Jesus Christ and his gift of eternal life, the winter of our lives means hope’s fruition is near.
We are closer to ‘Emmanuel’s land’, where glory dwells. ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9).
The apostle Paul, who ascended to the ‘third heaven’ to receive unfathomable revelations, understood more than most the astonishing grandeur that awaits all who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Christ has plucked the sting from the scorpion death, so that believers may rise from this mortal coil, glorious and free.
A Canadian winter is not really so bad. In fact, we enjoy it! Indeed there is nowhere we can go, nor is there a single day among the 365 that does not reflect something of God’s glory.