NEW SERIES: THE RESTORATIVE POWER OF CREATION
One of the ways to engage with the natural world is by paying attention to the passing seasons. Connecting to the earth’s rhythms is one of the ways we reduce stress and foster peace in the soul.
The key, as always, is in taking time to notice. We live helter-skelter lives in the western world, and the days can pass in a blur. But if we are serious about reducing stress levels, we have to take steps to slow down. A deliberate attempt to engage with the natural rhythms put in place by the Lord is one of the ways we can do this.
This week has brought the summer solstice, for those of us in the northern hemisphere. (If you are reading this from the southern hemisphere, please interpret what follows to fit your own situation!) The word ‘solstice’ comes from the Latin words for sun (sol) and to stand (sistere), and refers to the brief pause when the sun reaches its most extreme point, before the direction of travel is reversed. While most people think of the summer solstice as a day—the longest day of the year—it is in reality the exact moment in time when the hemisphere you're in is most tilted towards the Sun, and this year occurred at 15.58 BST.
Midsummer's Day (June 24th) is the traditional day for celebrating the long days of summer. It is also when many in the Christian world reflect on the life of John the Baptist. It was chosen as his ‘feast’ day because he was born 6 months before Jesus [Luke 1:26]. It seemed fitting to the early church authorities, based in Rome, to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist, with his great message of the coming Light, just after the summer solstice, when the days start shortening (John famously saying that he must decrease, and Jesus increase [John 3:30]), and the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World, just after the winter solstice, in the darkest time of the year.
Midsummer’s Day was also one of the four ‘Quarter Days’ in the old UK calendar when servants were hired, debts were settled, and rents were due. This grabbed my attention this year: Jesus came announcing the year of God’s favour [Luke 4:19]—a reference to the year of Jubilee detailed in Leviticus 25; and died to set mankind free. What a great time to focus on this topic!
Although New Age and Pagan groups have laid claim to both the solstice, and the longest day, as ‘their’ festival time, it is important to note that these are natural events—not quasi-spiritual—and were actually put in place by God the Creator of all. Maybe these events have been marked by all sorts of questionable worship, and practices, but Romans 1:19-21 makes it clear that the right response to natural phenomena is to glorify God and give thanks to Him.
In addition, Scripture says this:
Then God said,
“Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years…
Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day,
and the lesser light to rule the night.
[Genesis 1:14-16 NKJV]
Strongs Dictionary defines the Hebrew word for ‘sign’ (ot) as ‘a flag or beacon’ and ‘seasons’ (moed) as a ‘fixed time or season; specifically, a festival’. Long before man fell and idolatrous practices came into being, it seems that God intended His creation to be noticed and celebrated!
GIVE HIM PRAISE!
The solstice may be over for this year, but the long days of summer are still with us, and we can still find meaningful ways of engaging with this season.
Click on this link to read more about The Rhythms of Seasonal Living
NEXT WEEK: THE CALL OF EDEN
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[Photo credits: Lyle Hastie (sunset); Davide Biscuso (alfresco meal); Brett Jordan (mail sign) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
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