I never look forward to winter. I cower under the dark, bleak cold. It makes me draw inward. This past summer, I saw a production of William Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, which has both redeemed the name of Winter for me, and also given me reason to reevaluate how I think about the season.
St. John of the Cross says in his 16th century book Dark Night of the Soul: "Even though this happy night darkens the spirit, it does so only to impart light concerning all things." Still, how can he call it a happy night? Simply because night, if we let it, is redeemed into day through Christ Jesus. In my mind, Hermione forgives Leontes so readily, wordlessly even, exactly because of her years of being "frozen". The time she spent as stone was her winter season, where she seemed void of life, color and all things good on the outside, but inside was maturing, dealing with the business of seasons past, and preparing for a new season of life to come at the appointed time. She held out hope that whole time for reconciliation, and goodness. And Leontes, through the grace of her forgiveness and invitation back into relationship, is freed to be a real father and husband after his long winter of guilt. Permafrost melts, crocuses push through the toughened soil, stretching for new warmth and light.
I used to dismiss winter as a cruel period through which I must annually suffer, bereft of any intrinsic value. In many ways it felt like everything was on hold during those first months of the year. Mamillius speaks my heart best in one of the earlier lines of the play: "A sad tale's best for winter." But it is right, and a good and joyful thing, in these days of darkness and hard weather, to draw close to one another and consider it a happy night because it will, in God's Providence and Sovereignty, lead to the rejuvenation of spring.