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A Fragile Paradise

It is one of the ironies of Appalachia that beautiful, changing, fall leaves create a scene that is Edenic just before the bitter winter comes. As it is difficult to enjoy a Sunday night when Monday’s work is already filling the next slot in the viewmaster of our lives, so it is hard to forget that winter is stalking us, and we ought to enjoy the glories of fall while it lasts. Autumn, with its auburn and amber, is a fragile paradise. It is always a season on the brink.

The fall of man was, without doubt, the great cataclysm of our history. But the season of fall I find, is more like the preceding Eden. The winter, however, surely is a fall. This is bitter consequence, when men’s hands if not their hearts, go cold. But like common grace still abounding in a fallen world, so does winter have its many charms. Snow descends on strong, submissive trees. Green and brown tokens of bygone seasons peek out from beneath garments of white, like a child’s eyes stand out among layers of a mother’s careful wrapping. The wonder of the winter storm is that it is both beautiful and terrifying, like any woman a man has ever loved.

The children are thrilled by the snow -to them it’s magic. They gaze at the pale descent and rejoice at its rapid accumulation. Our inner-child is glad too, but our inner-adult considers spanking our inner-child (working Freudians everywhere into hysteria) because of snow tires, broken hips, bad roads, and predawn scraping of our windshields with an inadequate MasterCard. The same MasterCard that will soon weigh us down in materialistic debt because we have been fooled into thinking silly things about money and joy. But in Appalachia, like so much of the world influenced but not yet overtaken by the furious love of God, we reflect on important things.

We consider a small child in the next room, the next house up, or another country. We think of a small child born very far away, what seems like a long time ago. We remember that we had forgotten and we try to remember so that we won’t forget. More than gifts, but yes, gifts. Yes, families, but more than families. Decorations, yes, but also a changed heart. Mercy where wrath was deserved. Music into silence, light into darkness.

He came. In answer to that desperate fall, he came. So now there can be goodwill where his favor rests. And because of him, through him, there can be peace. Even on earth. Even, in Appalachia.

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