As the monochromatic greens of summer slowly morph into autumn's vivid hues, creation clears its throat to deliver its annual sermon on the inevitable decline of life. It's a homily we feel in our bones as temperatures shrivel to single digits. We see it as the gap twixt dawn and dusk abbreviates, as night’s conquest of the territory of day advances. As a double insult to the aged, this seasonal prelude to winter, this harbinger of the death of all things, bites deeper as we stumble toward the grave. The earth puts on a fine charade, mimicking vitality, perpetuating the myth of golden vibrancy. But she gives herself away, for nothing gold can stay. In the words of Robert Frost:
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
Ancient is the cosmic demise. The roots of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil snaked fathomless into the soil of the earth, piercing the very core of our world. The sap of death sank through those roots to the heart of the universe. Eden sank to grief, and slowly the cosmos has been dying ever since, subjected to futility, groaning and suffering as with the pangs of childbirth. Every earthquake is the tremble of her brittle bones, every flood the cascade of her tears. She waits, long still she waits, for redemption and freedom. And while she does, nothing gold can stay.
But this dying world is still the world of our living God, who graces us with tokens of a final renewal. As leaf subsides to leaf, and frost to snow, and snow to ice, there comes a day when the gold of nature sprouts anew. The mercury ascends as the sun pulls us closer to its warm embrace. The beasts of the field begin their baby-making again. Out of soil, hardened by cold, imprisoned by snow, burst defiant vegetation. That early leaf, a flower, may last yet an hour, but in that hour is another sermon, one that proclaims spring after winter, life after death, Easter after Good Friday.
Nothing gold can stay. What can stay, however, is something far more precious than gold, and of a far different hue. Crimson can stay, for such are the stains on the body of a man who has vacated the grave of December for the resurrection of April. He has redeemed us, not with gold and silver, but with his holy, precious blood. There he stands, the Lord of creation, saying, “Lo, I make all things new.” He stays. He does not sink. He does not subside. And those who live in him, they stay, they live, they abide, for he and he alone is the resurrection and the life for all.
If you enjoyed this reflection, please take a moment to check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!
The poems and hymns in my book, The Infant Priest, give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. Here there is praise of the crucified and risen Christ, dark lamentation of a penitent wrestling with despair, meditations upon the life of our Lord, thanksgiving for family, and much more. If you’d like to purchase a copy, you may do so at this website or on Amazon.com. Thank you!