Build houses and settle down. Jeremiah 29: 5
This is the time of year when the cold and the dark seem set to take over, a time when our instinct is to withdraw. It is the Celtic season of Samhain, when those cattle which had to be brought down from the hills, and which could not be accommodated, were slaughtered. The bonfires which we associate with this season get their name from the ‘bone fires’, in which the inedible parts of the carcasses were destroyed. The fires are also associated with the idea of clearing the decks for winter; the leaves and the excess things of summer are swept up and burned.. Something in the human psyche, too, needs to clear the decks, and to accept a reduction in the number of choices that are available to us, and to settle down.
Our ego resists the idea of accepting limits. Some people get depression at this time of year. Others flout what God is saying through nature by indulging in a reckless life-style throughout the winter. Yet think of the animals who hibernate. Think of the wonders of spring flowers – they would not be able to burst forth if they had not first lain still in the wintry earth.
So how should a Christian respond to this time of year? In two ways. First, by fighting against the darkness of fear, despair, self-concern and evil spirits. We expel these in the name of Christ and receive his strength, faith, and self-less love. Second, by not fighting against the God-given rhythm of the season, but by going with its flow. November’s grey days, dark nights, cold rains, thick fog help me to accept that I am mortal. This means that I will take more time to be inside, alone, still with God; I will take more time for study and the inner life. I will spend less time dashing around, purchasing, starting schemes.
Father, Saviour, Sustainer
As this cold, dark month encroaches
Give to us the stability of the deep earth
And the hope of heaven