As the autumn colours paint the world around me, I can’t help but be drawn to the spectacle of nature preparing for a season of rest. The vibrant hues of Autumn are not just a visual feast but a testament to the process of trees shedding their leaves, entering a state of dormancy and conserving energy for the coming harsh winter months.
There’s some fascinating science behind this process whereby trees meticulously withdraw nutrients from their leaves (a process called senescence). As chlorophyll, the green pigment responsible for photosynthesis, fades away, other pigments, such as carotenoids and anthocyanins, become more prominent. Carotenoids create the warm yellows and oranges we associate with autumn, while anthocyanins contribute the brilliant reds and purples. This spectacle, far from random, is a deliberate preparation for winter.
Leafless or “unburdened” trees are a strategic withdrawal that enables them to weather winter storms more resiliently. This natural rhythm, mirrored in the changing seasons, echoes the biblical notion of rest and a concept ingrained in the very fabric of creation; even God completed His work in six days and intentionally carved out rest on the seventh (Genesis 2:2-3).
Yet, as I ponder the importance of rest, I’m confronted with the paradox of our modern lives. Why, when the Creator of the universe modelled rest, do we find it so elusive? Is it a luxury reserved for a certain class, status, or state?
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus sleeps in a boat amidst a raging storm (Mark 4:37-38). The waves threatened to capsize the vessel, yet Jesus was undisturbed. Perhaps, after tirelessly teaching crowds, even the Son of God needed rest. It’s a powerful reminder that rest is a universal necessity. Jesus exemplifies a balanced approach to work, rest, and play in His earthly life. His teachings offer a pathway to a life in fullness, free from the burdens of guilt or obligation. Life, in its fullness, is not a demand but an invitation.
The call to embrace life fully is not about judgement but an encouragement to live authentically. Feelings that we “ought to” and “should” engage in caring for creation or good deeds dissipate in the light of His message. Prayer, reading, and acts of kindness should more easily and naturally flow from a heart at rest.
In this Advent season, as we prepare for Emmanuel, let’s not just pause our activities but actively engage with the rhythm of creation during this changing season, entering a period of rest without guilt and living a life that overflows with goodness.
This Bible reflection was written by Helen Stephens for our Wild Christian email, ‘Nature and Advent’. Helen is A Rocha UK’s Church Relations Manager.