Let it snow…

Needhamby Colonel Phil Needham –

Earlier on the day of this writing, Cadet Holly Needham, our youngest, called to tell us that snow had fallen in Atlanta the night before, leaving not only a glowing white carpet over the landscape, but treacherous roads as well. (Atlanta is poorly prepared for its infrequent snows. One inch practically shuts down the city.) Cadet field activities would be canceled. A gracious respite! (Chance to catch up on a class assignment–after a little snow frolicking, of course.)

I remembered how our daughters, when younger, used to get their hopes up when the weatherman predicted the possibility of snow that night. If snow came with any conviction, school would be canceled for the day. No trouble to awaken Heather and Holly the next morning: they would be up before dawn, holding their breath in hope that the emerging light in the fading night would reveal that coveted carpet of purity. If it so happened that their hopes were fulfilled, they would let out squeals of laughter and leap through the house. Oh, glorious reprieve!

I have to admit I was the same when I was their age. It wasn’t that I didn’t like school. I did–for the most part. But there was something about the way the snow transformed the world with its covering beauty, calling everything to a halt, as if to say, ‘Stop your routine and take this in.’ It was an invitation to discover a different kind of day. To relax. To let the world take you into its hope.

In one of the carols you probably sang this Christmas season, Edward Caswall summons us to look amid the winter’s snow and there see ‘redemption’s happy dawn,’ the long-standing promise fulfilled.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau looked into the snow one day and saw something very different. It was 1984, the year he resigned as prime minister of Canada. Here is how he described the day of his decision:

It seemed like a good day to have a last day…I went out to see if there were any signs of my destiny in the sky. But there weren’t; there was nothing but snowflakes.

He read the falling flakes as a sign that he had no future in the politics that were his passion. Perhaps he also read his despair over failed marriages. Years later his beloved son Michel was killed in a freak cross-country skiing accident. People observed that this loss transformed Trudeau from a vigorous elder statesman to a broken man. More snowflakes of despair. He died this past September.

I have vivid memories of Trudeau’s ascension to the most powerful post in the Canadian government. Never had Canada’s prime minister drawn such attention from the media. With his beautiful flower-child wife of that era, he was the darling of politics, the symbol of a new era. Media guru Marshall McLuhan described him as the ideal candidate for the television age — cool and cerebral with ‘the perfect mask.’ (LA Times, 9-29-00)

But on that cold day in 1984, he saw the end in the snow. The gathering blanket, obliterating his calling and robbing him of his passion.

How different the meanings of the same thing! To one a thing like snow means a gracious reprieve, to another a final end. To one the pure herald of redemption’s happy morn, to another the accumulating weight of cold despair.

And so we go through life, surrounded by epiphanies of one sort or another–manifestations of hope, or despair. The meaning is in the eye of the beholder.

We, all of us, are surrounded by those epiphanies (literally, ‘appearings’). God shows up, and those with eyes to see and ears to hear know his coming, and they squeal with delight, or catch their breaths in wonder.

It’s been that way ever since ‘the grace of God…appeared (literally, in the Greek, ‘epiphanied’), bringing salvation to all (Titus 2:11). We are now in the Epiphany season of the church calendar. Magi saw epiphany in the star that led them to the manger of their hope. Where will epiphany lead you? Will you take the time to see the incredible hope that lies before you?

On the cusp of this new year, let’s pledge together to be like children at the morning windows, looking out into the snow of God’s promise, then running outside together to roll in the ecstasy of a new world covered in good news and to dance ‘redemption’s happy dawn.’ Let’s not allow despair to take us. Let’s give ourselves completely to the God of all hope and let him take us into his different day.

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