If your first experience of Australia was a Melbourne winter, you might think twice about moving here. On all the tourist advertising, Australia is presented as a sunny, outdoor destination. I was speaking with some students from overseas once, and they were shocked that they had left the northern summer to arrive in a cold and grey Melbourne to start their studies. Many international students start studying in July and aren’t too excited about the chilly weather that they encounter.
But what of those who love winter? Let me quickly add that I am not in this category. I don’t like it too hot, but neither do I like it too cold. Moderation in everything is my motto. Some that I’ve complained to about cold weather immediately correct me and tell me how much they love it. Perhaps they like skiing and they’ve been waiting for the ski season. Perhaps they like going for a walk or jog in the crisp mornings where the streets are quiet, and they don’t get overheated. Or perhaps they just like snuggling up at home with a good book and their loved ones without being pestered to go outside and make the most of the good weather.
Whatever your experience, winter is a season that can awaken strong emotions in people. Most don’t have a choice about whether to experience it, especially at the moment while we can’t travel, and it can be a time of waiting for the weather to get better. Artistic types are fascinated by how the seasons influence us. A friend of mine has written a poem which includes the line “my knuckles tell me winter has arrived”. He really doesn’t like winter and tries to spend a little time in a warmer place each winter. The Beatles song ‘Here comes the sun’ looks forward to a time when the long British winter becomes spring and the sun comes out in a slightly brighter way (it is the UK after all). So, the winter can be a time of waiting for something better to arrive.
Currently we are waiting for our stay at home restrictions to come off, and winter can be a double burden. We look forward to resuming our normal activities, just as we look forward to some warmer weather. The Bible has lots to say about waiting. Joseph in the book of Genesis spent about ten years in prison before being given enormous responsibility for looking after the people of Egypt and being restored to his family. An old man named Simeon had been waiting to see how God would restore Israel and was blessed to see the baby Jesus (Luke 2).
There are many other examples of people who are in a period of waiting to see what God will do, both in the Bible and in our lives right now. Just as we wait for the weather to improve, we continue with our lives while waiting. It’s been fantastic to see how church members have supported each other during the Covid-19 restrictions. I’ve heard many stories of phone calls, and items sent through the mail. Manningham Uniting Church people have not been idle while waiting, they have continued to show care and compassion in multiple ways. This winter may be even more encouraging than normal because we have realised how we can help each other even when we’ve not been able to see each other physically. It appears that some of the restrictions are beginning to be lifted. That is great news, and we eagerly await it, but we also look forward to continuing to support each other in creative and new ways, so that we can all work together to be the church as it is right now. Let winter be a reminder of how much we do have.