For many people Christmas is a magical time of year – and yes, it is absolutely too early to start to write about Christmas (even if the cards are in the shops). But while it is a magical time, so is autumn.
A time of change when time itself goes backwards and we lose the hour, as the stretch in the day stretches no more, receding imperceptibly as winter approaches and the nights draw in. But it is magical, as leaves change and the countryside is splashed with God’s own palette of gold and browns, rusty-reds and turning yellows. It’s a cosy time too – at least in our house.
In rural congregations up and down the land, and in towns and cities too, it is a time when thanks are given to God for the harvest in special services.
A weather-dependent race against time
In the hymn ‘Come, ye thankful people, come’, by the 19 century Church of England cleric, Henry Alford, we sing, ‘…raise the song of harvest home; all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.’ In gathering the harvest, and final cuts of silage and hay, it has always been a weather-dependent race against time, as the summer months run their course.
Camping out in mid-August, tractors pulling trailers piled with round bales, plied the lane near us going back and forth – and it was a quarter to eleven! Another evening a month later, driving home over the Holywood Hills, bright lights filled the horizon as a combine worked away illuminating the night. With our weather unpredictable as it is – it is a race against time, and sometimes, that time runs out.
King Solomon tells us that, “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) In the Book of Proverbs (27:1) he tells us, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” It could be our last.
On a similar theme, the Apostle James says, “…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that happens for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14.) It is a sobering thought, isn’t it? King David writes, “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103:15-16.)
But there is good news. When we recognise our sinfulness, repent of our sin and ask Jesus for forgiveness, so that we can be right with His Father and know an eternity with Him – God not only remembers us, He knows us as His precious children.
As the Prophet Isaiah says, “Behold the LORD’s hand is not too short that it cannot save; nor His ear so dull that it cannot hear (Isaiah 59:1.) He will hear, when we call out for forgiveness and accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. When we do, we become part of a great spiritual harvest that can only be gathered in by God. Yet time is short and against us, we just don’t know what tomorrow will bring – put it off no longer and say ‘yes’ to Jesus today.
Before coming to live in Belfast nearly 40 years ago, Mark Smith grew up in a village in rural Sussex, coming to Northern Ireland in his late teens. He is a member of Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in east Belfast and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s press officer.
His blog appeared in today’s Farming Life, a fortnightly column entitled ‘Good News for the Countryside’, where people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life.
You can look at other blogs in this series here.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna, PCI’s Rural Chaplain at email@example.com or call him on 07938 488 372.