Winter is approaching. My favorite day of the new season is when a hard freeze moves across the land, creating a winter wonderland of frost as moisture precipitates and freezes into tiny crystals on the tops of leaves, grass and everything exposed to nature’s whim.
We who work with the land and animal life living there have a wonderful reminder of the timeless cycle of life from beginning to end. It should always be celebrated while we are stewards of this tremendous resource which our Maker has given to us.
After germination and emergence, winter wheat becomes dormant in sub-freezing temperature and succumbs to the processes it was designed to sustain through winter. When the earth completes its march towards another glorious spring, a new beginning and promise of new life awaits.
The writer of the book of John’s gospel knew enough of the agronomic abilities of wheat to write about it. However, it was not that he merely wanted to discuss the properties of a kernel of wheat, per se, but he was quoting directly from another well-known person about a very important principle. Beginning with a kernel of wheat, Jesus Christ said, unless it dies, it does not produce anything. A kernel must perish as a kernel if there is to be a plant, which will germinate, grow and produce more kernels. (John 12:23-26)
This concept may seem simple enough to understand. But there is more to it than that. Jesus continues, "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am my servant also will be with me. My Father will honor the one who serves me."
In other words, to concentrate on my own success is to lose what matters. Our love for God must be such that all other loves are, by comparison, seen as hatred.
Back in the day, one New Testament college professor described this as the hard teachings of Christ. It is very hard, not to understand, but to accept.
Having the benefit of reading the book of John over the years and reflecting on it since that day in college — in 1970 something — it underscores what Christ was preparing to do; his journey from there would culminate in his death on the cross.
This death — and resurrection — produced and continues to produce a harvest of redeemed humanity that cannot be counted by mankind. We who look upon this miracle of birth, death and rebirth into new and eternal life, who now see and accept its universal truth, by faith, have a renewed appreciation for the story of Christmas.
Penner is a Marion County farmer and past president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. His email is [email protected].