by Dale Reeves
This past week I participated in a church staff meeting in which we determined specific plans for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services that will be offered at our church in a few months. This year Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday and Christmas and New Year’s Day both fall on Sundays. We’ll be having worship experiences at our church building on all of those days and we are excited about the plans that are coming together. Do you realize that if you read this blog today that you only have 92 days left for Christmas shopping?
But just because you’ve gone to the store and have already seen Christmas decorations for sale, let’s not rush through my favorite season of the year. When my wife and I lived in Houston, Texas, for several years, we really missed the fall season in the midwest with its crisper air at nights, kaleidoscope of colors, and all manner of festivals. Yesterday the fall equinox arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, which means that “Fall” or “Autumn” has officially begun around here. After months of blasting the air conditioning, the beginning of this season typically ushers in cooler breezes that allow us to finally keep the windows open.
Fall or Autumn?
Because my wife babysits several of our grandkids a couple of days a week, and they like to play on the slide and swings in our backyard, I spend a few minutes every afternoon picking up the shagbark hickory nuts that have fallen. I don’t want our little guys to step on those nuts when they’re running around in our yard. No matter how many I have gathered the day before, it seems like there is an unending supply of these things on the ground every day. Every now and then I see our backyard squirrels enjoying a little feast of them while they leave the shells for us on the well-worn wooden playground platform.
As the days start to get cooler, I will observe more leaves falling than hickory nuts. As the chlorophyll breaks down in the leaves, their green color disappears, and we are blessed with vibrant yellow and red and orange splendor. Recorded use of the word “Fall” as the name of the third season of our year comes from as early as the 1500s. The term was likely a deviation from the Old English words “fiaell” and “feallan,” both of which mean “to fall from a height.” Most people assume that this name for the season was inspired by the leaves falling from deciduous trees.
The terms “fall” and “autumn” are used interchangeably in the United States, but not so in Britain. Those who consider themselves to be the “true English” actually consider the term “fall” to be an “American barbarism.” Those living in the UK prefer the term “autumn,” derived from the Latin word autumnus, which means “the passing of the year.” For those living in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun crosses the celestial equator going from north to south, this marks the autumnal equinox. After that takes place, days become shorter than nights as the sun continues to rise later and nightfall arrives earlier. And don’t forget in several months from now, we will officially end Daylight Savings Time as we “fall” back an hour, regaining an hour of precious sleep.
While we contemplate what other things might be “falling” this season, according to tasteofhome.com, did you know there are at least 32 pumpkin spice products you can buy, including pumpkin spice goldfish, pumpkin spice Jell-O, pumpkin spice Cheerios, pumpkin spice pancake and waffle mix, in addition to your coffee, tea, and lattes! While you’re decorating your home with corn stalks, vibrant wreaths, bales of hay, and colorful mums, drinking apple cider, and eating all things pumpkin and apple—and trying to find the exit out of a corn maze—I’d like to ask you, “What are you asking God to do in your life during this season?”
As a child I remember singing this old chorus on Sunday evenings at our church:
“Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Break me, mold me,
Fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.”
That hymn was written in the late 1920s by Presbyterian minister Daniel Iverson, inspired by a citywide revival in Orlando, Florida. It was a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to bring about renewal in the individual heart in stanza one and to make these renewed people one in love and service in stanza two.
We read in the book of Acts that several things happen when we choose to follow Christ in baptism: We receive the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, 39). Jesus himself said, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13, NLT). Have you ever heard someone ask for the Holy Spirit to “fall down” on us just like he did on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, and wondered what they meant by that? They could have been referring to receiving and exercising various spiritual gifts or they could have been asking God’s Spirit to fill his people so that they could experience his power and allow it to impact others for his glory.
In a current worship song entitled, “Fear Is a Liar,” recorded by Zach Williams, we find these words:
“Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears,
Let Your fire fall, Your love is all I feel.”
“Asking for God’s fire is a big thing. . . . When we ask for God’s fire, we are not asking for a warm glow of affection for God. We are asking for his blazing, consuming, awesome presence. . . . We are asking for God to draw near to us in His fulness and to burn up everything in our lives that is displeasing to Him so that we can know Him more and walk in closer step with Him.”
That’s an intense prayer, isn’t it? Appropriate for sitting around a firepit. What would it look like in your life for God’s Holy Spirit to fall down and fill you more fully during this fall season? That’s an audacious prayer. I dare you