In the Deep Midwinter Comes the Presence and Promise of God

When All Is Gloomy…
It is deep winter in the United States. Cities like Boston, where Doug Birdsall, our co-publisher lives, and Chicago, where I reside, are experiencing a very cold and snowbound winter. Days are short; nights are long. Trees are stripped of their leaves and flowers are hidden. It is terribly gloomy.

In the earth’s northern hemisphere, the cold and repressive darkness of winter coincide to the church calendar. It is the season of Lent and as such, we examine our lives, opening our minds and hearts to God’s pure gaze.

The Holy Spirit mercifully tells us again that we are dust, that our lives are cold and dark. We remember that at our best we are not good enough and at our worst we are worse than we thought we could be. The culmination of our sinful lives is seen in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, where once long ago, other evil people killed the Son of God. The weight of all this nearly crushes our souls.

And We Can Bear No More…
But then, when we can bear no more, comes the spring. The grip of winter loosens, warmth and rains replace cold and ice. Trees break out in glorious fashion with white blossoms, red berries, and a thousand shades of green. Tulips of bright color dot the landscape. And in our souls blows a trumpet, declaring not the dirge of a death, but rather coronation of life—Jesus Christ’s life, risen and glorified.

He is risen! And the grace of God pours forth like a river bounding down a mountain side as the snow melts. A just God declares sin is forgiven, and his resurrection presence and promise dispels life’s gloom.

We have chosen to remember and reflect on the Resurrection of Christ in this issue of Lausanne World Pulse. For readers from the southern hemisphere, my apologies for using the cold and darkness of winter as a metaphor of the darkness of sin and our need for something to save us. Yet, I know you can follow the thought.

The truth of the Resurrection explodes out of the Gospels, refusing to sit on dusty shelves as mere doctrine. Its meaning for the lives of believers overwhelms our minds and hearts. The risen life of Jesus means that sin’s power is broken. It means that God’s justice is fulfilled and the penalty for evil is assumed by the goodness and love of God. And it means two other very important things.

First, the Resurrection assures us that God is alive and present with us. “You shall call his name Immanuel, which means God with us” (Matthew 1:23). His presence can end our fear and quell our aloneness. Whatever life situations befall us, we are not alone. Our challenges are not ours alone. The living God stands with us, “For he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you,’ so we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5b-6).

I am thinking of our brothers and sisters in Iraq under severe persecution and “religicide.” Christ is with them. I am thinking of the orphans of families where mother and father have been martyred. Christ is with them. They/we are not alone. Thank you, Lord.

Second, the Resurrection means that the promise of his imminent return is sure, where death and despair will be vanquished forever.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under his feet…Behold I tell you a mystery. We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised…Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:26-27, 51-52, 58).

Christ is present with us. And Christ’s promise comforts and sustains. This old, cold world, with all its brokenness, shall someday soon be made whole and new. And, so shall we.

Dr. Lon Allison is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. He also serves as director for the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at Wheaton College. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.