Last night, my son and I discussed the fact that along the Gulf Coast of the United States where we live, the autumn season does not provide the array of hues and colors that people see in many other parts of our nation. Indeed, in the next few weeks, the wonder of fall will grace the northern and central regions of our nation with a fiery display of beauty that has inspired countless artists through the centuries. None have ever matched God's virtuosity, nor will anyone ever paint on a canvas the glory He splashes upon groves, forests, and sometimes, simply a single tree. Here in the subtropics, we'll see a little of that on our popcorn trees, and the occasional maple some folks plant for ornamental purposes. By and large, however, our evergreens will remain, well, ever and green.
Autumn's beauty always reminds me that death is required to bring forth the display. Leaves must die in order to achieve their sublime hue. Certainly, they're beautiful when lively and green. The new growth of a spring forest blesses us with its own expression of wonder. Still, the colors of fall are unmatched in their varied and vibrant gallery, and again, death (the loss of chlorophyll due to less light and water) originates and hastens the process. This speaks to us of even more beautiful glories provided by loss, darkness, and thirst.
"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say,My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:45-46).
"After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst" (John 19:28).
The Lord Jesus Christ was glorious in the eternal past (John 17:5). He is even more glorious, having lived, died, and been raised from death in order to save us from our sins. Thereby, He became our Savior as well as our Creator. God's holiness and justice required such a loss and such a fall for the Lord Jesus to be constituted as our hope and our redemption. "Without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). The trusting heart thus looks back on the cross, with all it's horror and ugliness, and we see nevertheless see our Lord's beautiful heart in the most vivid display imaginable. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:10). Autumn speaks to us of such glory, even for those of us who see it in only the most limited measure. Indeed, falling and lovely leaves sing to us of a fallen and lovely Savior, risen again from the dead, and more beautiful than ever.
"He is altogether lovely."
(Song of Solomon 5:16)