by Jennifer Mills-Knutsen
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
Reflection & Questions to Spark Conversation
Observe the changes of the fall season. Typically this time of year, we notice days getting colder and shorter, trees losing their vibrant leaves, birds flying south and animals heading into hibernation mode. It looks a lot like everything is dying. You might choose to collect some fallen leaves or watch birds flying in formation.
Usually, we don’t talk about Easter this time of year. We wait all through the winter, light candles through Advent and Christmas Eve, perform penance through the Lenten (short for “lengthening”) days, and finally get back to talk of new life and resurrection at Easter, just in time for the animals to return, trees and flowers to bloom anew.
Yet our Christian tradition says that every Sunday is a “little Easter.” How can we think about Easter and resurrection in a season when everything feels like it’s closing up and shutting down, preparing to hibernate for winter?
The meaning of Easter is death and resurrection—that Jesus actually died and came back to life, that we can die and come back to life, that God can make new life even when all seems dead. However, living into Easter requires accepting the reality of letting things go, letting some things fall away and die so that new things can be born.
Re-read Isaiah 43:18. Can you think of some “former things” that had to pass away to make room for new life? Examples: training wheels on a bike, diapers, old toys that made way for new ones.
Maybe fall isn’t the opposite of Easter—maybe it’s the first step in making room for Easter to happen to us again. Explain how the trees can’t make flowers again until the old leaves are gone to make room. Think about how the cold days let the seeds get ready for spring. Spring doesn’t happen without fall, just like Easter doesn’t happen without Good Friday.
Invite everyone in your family to consider some things that are “former.” Are their items cluttering up your home that you don’t need anymore? Spend some time collecting all the “former things” that you can let go. Most children have clothes or toys that are too small or too young, and this is a great time of year to clean them out—especially to make room for new things at Christmas. You can give them away to a local charity that can put them to good use, and make space for new life in your midst. If you have Frozen fans in your family, a loud sing-a-long of “Let it Go” might add to the experience of collecting things to let go.
If your children are older, take the conversation to a deeper level. Are there habits that you keep up even though they’ve lost their meaning? Are their old arguments or hurts that you can allow to fall away? Where do they see the opportunities for new life as they grow up? What do you need to let go in order to help them? (Warning: they may suggest “bedtime” ☺)
Dear God, in the fall, Easter seems a long way away.
Help us to remember that the cold and the dark
are a part of your promise of resurrection.
Teach us to let go of the former things,
whether they are things we can touch
or things we can only feel in our hearts,
so that you can create new life in us
and we can always be pointed toward Easter. Amen.