Forgive me for stating the obvious, but autumn is well under way. The air is cold and often wet, the sky a baleful pallor. The time has come to wrap up warm and hunker indoors over a bowl of steaming soup. Yet advertising encourages us to indulge in the fantasy of a perpetual summer, a land of endless gambolling beneath sunny skies, in a state of perpetual youth and beauty, vigour, vim, green shoots and get-up-and-go. Winter sun holidays, tanning booths, nightclubs with the heating up so we can dance around in crop tops (I do this all the time, of course) and pretend it's Ibiza - all these things beckon us in from the cold reality outside.
And to some extent, that's all well and good. We need such summer fantasies on our grey island. I'd like a bit of Winter sun myself. But the cold months are important, too. We can't live a life of nonstop growth and energy. Our is a world of seasons, and we need to respect the pattern of these seasons as much as everything else on earth does: to take time to hibernate, to refresh, to let the growth come gently underneath the frosty ground. Then, when the warm months come, we will be ready for them.
Many churches are guilty of the mentality of the perpetual summer, always brash and cheery, focussing on outwardly obvious growth and energy. And frankly, the forced smiles can grow rather tiresome. But if we follow the Church year properly, we can find a really seasonal spirituality. The summer season of Trinity, where the church is decked in fertile green, is drawing to an end. After the white of All Saints on the first of November, we come on the second to the pensive black of All Souls, when we pray for and with the dead loved ones, reflecting that we will one day join them. Soon after, we move to the penitential purple of Advent. This 'mini-Lent' is a time for reflection and inner growth, as we seek, warm and nourish the Christ hidden within each of us, ready for His birth, in golden splendour, at Christmas.
Believe it or not, Christ is hibernating inside you, deeper than you know. So try to withdraw a little in this cold season, keep warm beneath the spiritual frosts, and give Him the chance to wake up inside you in time for Christmas. Then the outer growth can really start anew.