So that you may continue to laugh at my expense, here is my story from one of last month’s sermons about the first time I experienced snow.
When I was twenty, I was in Washington state for a weekend for a speech and debate tournament. It was really cold. Rumor had it that it was going to snow. I have zero memory of how well I competed that weekend, because I was too busy peering anxiously out of windows and I’m pretty sure that I was a broken record of “do you think it’s actually going to snow? I hope it snows. I’ve never seen snow. I AM VERY EXCITED.”
Anyway, it snowed, and it was basically the greatest thing that happened to me that year, and I probably started squeaking and making very excited noises. Snowflakes landed on my eyelashes and felt funny and later I discovered that my purple mascara was running a little bit. (Yes, purple. I was very edgy.) And people literally stopped and stared at me, suddenly realizing that when I’d been gushing all day about how I’d never seen snow, yeah, I wasn’t joking.
So I’m dancing around as this magical white stuff is falling down around me and the landscape turns from green grass and bushes and red brick pathways and brown benches into white ground and grey skies and more white falling down. There’s a perfectly timed picture of me where I am just ecstatically looking up at the sky and meanwhile there’s a snowball coming right at my head because my team members were jerks.
The day of my first snow was also the day of my first snowball to the face and also a day of repeatedly falling on my butt because why on earth would I have worn winter boots, I grew up on the beach and winter boots were not a thing that I owned.
This is now the ninth year that I’ve lived somewhere with real winters and there are a lot of things that make more sense to me now. I remember being taught about seasons using picture books, because January and July don’t really look all that different when trees don’t lose their leaves.
But I understand now what it means for ground to be hard—not because it’s been packed down, but because it’s frozen. I understand that icicles can actually be dangerous when they’re real and not just plastic decorations hanging off of peoples’ roofs with their Christmas lights and yes, that is actually a thing that people in California do. You can get strings of clear plastic cone looking things to hang up next to your cacti and palm trees. I understand how you can get lost when everything is covered in snow and directional landmarks are basically erased. I understand why people talk about “winter clothes” as being almost an entirely different wardrobe. I understand why Tumnus the fawn carried an umbrella, even though it wasn’t raining. I understand how even great big strong trees are weighed down with snow so that they groan and droop and bend down and how if you slip under the branches toward the trunk, you’ll find a secret hiding place that wasn’t there in the summer.
But I also have a better understanding of the vision in the letter of Revelation, how all at once, everything familiar can be transformed into something new. I woke up one morning this week and IT WAS BASICALLY NARNIA OUTSIDE.
It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it still helps me imagine how something as seemingly familiar as the world around us and the earth under our feet can be transformed into something new, something perfectly clean, and sparkling in the sunlight. A new heaven and a new earth: snowfall in the middle of the night, before plows come through, before snowballs are scooped up or footprints kick through or shovels mix in dead leaves with the white snow, with perfectly smooth snow rounding off every sharp edge, and the flakes fall thick but gently and the night is totally silent, and you can almost imagine the world as a blank slate, and maybe when the sun rises, there will be peace and dialogue and understanding and generosity. You can almost imagine that just past the lamppost through the trees is a new adventure, better than any you could have hoped for.
I think the new heaven and the new earth of the vision in the letter of Revelation might be a little bit like that.
Happy holidays from Gingersnap and Pastor Leia! May you find peace, love, joy, and hope this Advent season, and may the blessings of Christmas carry you into 2020 with empathy, generosity, gratitude, and the ambition to create change in the world.
shalom and agape,
Rev Leia Rose Battaglia