To my mind, autumn starts when we first decide to put on the central heating at home. Officially it started on 22nd September – the equinox when day and night each last 12 hours. We may yet get a burst of heat before winter is upon us, but the signs of autumn are certainly all around.
For many of us, the annual turning of the seasons simply adds interest to life, giving an opportunity to wear a different wardrobe, or engage in an alternative set of leisure activities. For others, particularly those who work outdoors or close to the land, the seasons make a huge difference to daily life. For some, particularly the frail or very poor, the change of seasons can lead to illness or even death.
However much we are aware of them, the seasons are a fixed part of life in the natural world. They also point towards the seasons in our own lives.
Over the last few months I have been involved with quite a number of funerals. A popular reading at such services includes the following verses: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
This ancient book from the biblical wisdom literature reminds us that we are as subject to seasons as the rest of the world. And faced with the inevitable change and seasonality that is built into the natural world, we could become fatalistic, resigned to being trapped in these unavoidable cycles. Or we could try to look beyond them.
In another book of biblical wisdom, Job recognises that the seasons are not directed by an impersonal power, but that there is a person behind them. In a time of personal crisis, Job, with prophetic insight, declares that it is the Lord who gives and takes away (Job 1:21). Years later Jesus further explains that because of his love, the heavenly Father “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).
Whilst they may be outside our control, the seasons are part of God’s good plan for his world. So as autumn arrives, whether around us or in our lives, let’s give thanks to God for the seasons, trust his loving wisdom, and seek to make the most of the differing opportunities that each brings.
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton