Last Sunday, between worship services, I went for a hike up at Scott Creek.  I was hunting for the crucifix orchid (Orthoceras strictum) which, in that spot, can be a pale green colour.  I spotted a couple of the maroon-coloured ones in flower, but no green.

Just along the track at that point, there is a lookout, where you can trace the ridge of the Southern Lofties right out into the Peninsula with the ocean to the west.  Six weeks ago, that view would have included other hikers and orchid hunters, either on the track or appearing out of the bush where they’d been photographing some flower or insect.  But on Sunday it was just me – the spring orchids are over, and the hikers and nature hunters have all moved on.

A not-insignificant fear of snakes has put paid to me ever searching for the summer moose or spiral orchids in the Fleurieu swamps, so Sunday’s crucifix orchid was the penultimate orchid I expect to photograph this year.  And now, there will be almost half a year to wait before another orchid season arrives.

After all the colour and joy and wonder and anticipation of the last fifteen weeks, another season is ending, and last Sunday I couldn’t stop that end-of-holiday feeling.

Perhaps because of my mood, or because of the name of the orchid I was looking at, my mind wandered to Luke’s Gospel and the story of the two travelers on the Emmaus Road that first Easter.  Their faces are downcast from discussing the events of Christ’s Passion, and their hopes that had seemingly died along with Him.  “They crucified Him; but we had hoped that He was the One who was going to redeem us.”  Hoped that He was the One…  These two dejected travelers wandering away from Jerusalem, after what they thought was the end of hope.

But of course, it’s Jesus who is their companion, and who explains to them how the old Scriptures were signposts to Him.  It’s late, so the travelers invite this companion to be their guest.  And upon breaking the bread, their eyes are opened and they recognise Him as Jesus.  “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while He was talking on the road?” they exclaim.  Their hopelessness is replaced with a newfound hope and a new purpose!  They rush back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples and the others, “It’s true!  He is Risen!”

There’s a lesson somewhere in all this.  It has to do with how I lean into seasons and how I become comfortable with change.  It has to do with how I look back, especially when feeling the loss of something, and what drives me forward.

The new church year starts soon, with Advent – a season where we step back into the stories of the Nativity and re-experience the expectancy and anticipation of Christ’s birth.  And during the first week of Advent, we especially consider hope.  We reflect on the sources of hope in our lives.  We consider how hope is found in the God-with-Us Emmanuel of the first Christmas, just as it is found in the Christ-with-us Resurrection of the first Easter.

The church lectionary literally begins with this theme of hope – because Jesus is with us now, and hope is what we have!  Right now, Jesus is knocking at the door, calling to us, and asking us to open up to Him, so that we can break bread together (Rev 3:20).

So here we are at the end of one church year, and the end of a season.  But hope allows us to look forward to a new season.  And we’re not alone, because Jesus walks the road with us!  And like those two disciples on that Emmaus Road, if we welcome His company on our journey, if we listen to His voice, and if we invite Him to break bread with us, then surely our hearts will burn within us too.    

I’ve been thinking about Mary and the angel Gabriel.  I think about her “yes” to God’s plan – “may it happen as you have said” (Lk 1:38).  Despite everything changing in her world, I think about her joy (Lk 1:46-48).  I think about how she treasured in her heart the shepherds’ stories (Lk 2:19).  Did her heart burn within her?  What new stories will we treasure in the season ahead of us?

It’s time.  I lay the old season down, with gratitude for its joys, and with God’s help I also lay down the blues that accompany the passing of things.  And I take up the invitation to a new season, one that starts with hope and expectation.  I can’t say what it will bring.  But I know that God is ahead of me, inviting me to follow.  I know that God is ahead of us at Clayton Wesley, guiding us into this new chapter.

Just imagine where this next season may take us, if we, like Mary, were to say yes. If we, like those Emmaus travelers, would welcome Jesus as our companion.  I wonder what would happen if we really, truly, desired to have hearts on fire for God in the days ahead.

Like the Kendrick hymn says, “We’ll walk the land with hearts on fire, and every step will be a prayer.  Hope is rising, a new day dawning, the sound of singing fills the air…”