Fall is my favorite season by far. I love when the heat and humidity of summer melt away and the cool breeze of fall begins to blow change across the Midwest. Farmers reap their harvest, leaves change colors and fall from their branches, campfires begin roaring and crackling, school starts, and we prepare ourselves for the dark, cold of winter. While many people think of winter as the end of the cycle of seasons, I believe that fall represents an end period more perfectly. In the Christian tradition, we celebrate multiple events in our Christian calendar that help us prepare ourselves for the cycle of death and eventual rebirth that we are reminded of each year.
November 1st brings All Saints Day, which follows All Hollows Eve (Halloween). During this somber time, we reflect back on the life and service of the Saints of our church and community who've gone one before us, especially those who have passed within the last year. All Saints Day fits in fall because in many ways, God does harvest the souls of the saints, and brings them into God's eternal place of rest, as promised in scripture.
We give thanks on Thanksgiving later in the month, but more than that civic holiday, the church celebrates the very end of the church calendar year. On Sunday, November 25th, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is Christ the King Sunday. This day marks a great celebration for all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ, beginning with God's Incarnation into the world on Christmas Day, leading to Christ's death on the cross on Good Friday, his resurrection Easter Sunday, and his continued work through the Holy Spirit that follows through summer. Christ the King Sunday paves the way for the true end of harvest and it resets our hearts in preparation for Advent, where we wait in quiet anticipation, quiet expectation and quiet hopefulness that God will come into the world, and our hearts, once more on Christmas Day.
I encourage you through the month of November to think of the seeds of faith that have been planted in your hearts over the past year. What would God reap from you during this harvest season that has grown over the past 12 months? Perhaps you've grown more in your prayer life. Maybe you've risen to the challenge to read the Bible more through our monthly studies. Have you felt the Spirit stirring you to give more over the next year, serve in mission more for the community, or mentor someone who needs the wisdom you can provide? Maybe you've even simply invited someone to church who does not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and who does not have a faith community to call their own? God does reap a harvest the Spirit nurtures in us, but we have to allow those seeds of faith to grow. What fruit is ready on your vine?
Maybe you don't see or feel that fruit this year. Perhaps God is just starting fresh with you. Maybe your roots are still taking shape, so that next season you might blossom and grow in faithfulness and action. Or maybe you feel like you don't have much more to offer. That maybe your time to bear great fruit in your faith has passed. I want to encourage you, that while there may be certain ways we lived our faith in the past that we must die to, God is always planting new seeds of faith in us that lead towards new ways of bearing fruit. While old leaves fall off, there is always a spring again, and new leaves grow in their place. This happens no matter how harsh a winter we face.
So give thanks this season. Thanks in the Lord, for all God has done through Christ. Give thanks for who God has called you to be and how you have responded to that call. But also give thanks for what's coming next. God is working on our hearts. And while the impending cold and darkness of winter may feel like a season of loss, death and hibernation; It is the season where God trims branches from our lives to make room for a greater harvest next year. What will that harvest look like? How will we as Christ's body reflect the beautiful garden of God's creation? Amen.