November - The 'No' Month ?
Here is the poet Thomas Hood, in the last lines of a poem entitled, 'No!'
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
It's an engaging poem, but is the month of November really as negative as that? True, November brings a real sense that the year is passing, for it is the pioneer of winter; and by the month's end, forest trees will be bare and our gardens will be desolate. We may well have the feeling that we must tidy up and prepare for winter, so that we will be ready for spring when it comes. Leaves, whose emerald colour we welcomed in the spring, whose quiet of restfulness we enjoyed in the summer, whose golden ceiling over our heads we relished in the autumn, have now all fallen, a kaleidoscopic carpet under our feet. And it is now time for us to sweep them up, gather them together in an orderly heap - the great tidying-up of the year.
The leaves of the trees are not the only leaves we gather in November: November is the month when we think of the glorious dead, and we gather them too in another great tidying-up of the year. On the first of the month, we are out with our brooms gathering up All Saints; on the second, we are busy again with our besoms, calling together All Souls; on the eleventh, we sweep the honoured dead into our Remembrance; on the sixteenth, we add St Margaret to the growing throng; and on the thirtieth, we crown the collection with St Andrew, our patron saint. They have 'blossomed and flourished as leaves on the tree', and in November we gather them up who have already been gathered by God.
From Nature's point of view, November may be a month when life dies down. But in the Christian calendar, it is a month full of life and beauty and challenge. For it is the month of the saints, people from every age whose lovely ambition it was never to allow the traffic of the world to smother with noise and fog the flowering of God's Spirit, who, as the poet Stephen Spender suggested, left the vivid air signed with God's honour, and who now are robed in the dazzling immortality of his glory. At the heart of that glorious company are our own dear ones, out of the reach of our sight and touch but never beyond God's loving care. In the communion of the saints, we are guided by their example and guarded by their fellowship, so that we too, may learn to love God above all things, may be what he would have us be, and do what he would have us do. So we too may be numbered with the saints in glory everlasting.
The weather in November may not always be conducive to buoyancy and cheerfulness of spirit, but hearts made brave by the communion of the saints will beat the more quickly for being surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses who are cheering us onwards and upwards.
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