Spring seems to come earlier and earlier. During February and March, late winter gives way to early spring which is always an exciting time: as winter loses its icy grip the days lengthen, sunlight improves, bulbs brighten gardens, birds sing and begin their nest-building.
Lent begins at the start of March – the season of lengthening and strengthening. Here we get a sense of the Christian seasons mirroring nature in turning rest into new growth and turning negatives into positives.
Likewise, I am becoming aware of people using this time as a season for turning negatives into positives in their own lives. I wonder if you also see evidence of this re-emerging within your life experience too? With the eye of faith, I pray that as we start to emerge from the negative experiences of the pandemic, many and varied examples of inspirational positivity might, hopefully, be springing up all around us.
To know Christ and follow his example is to explore the way to abundant life. Christianity is a positive faith, established upon the power of the resurrection of Jesus. The Christian God is not a God of restrictions but a God of fulfilment. Becoming a Christian is never about being diminished in any way, it is all about developing a positive nurturing relationship with our Maker through learning about Jesus: it is about growing into life in all its fullness. So says Desmond Tutu in his famous prayer:
Rejoice, for goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death;
victory is ours through him who loves us.
My very best wishes to you all, as always, your friend and Minister,
Janus, the old Roman god after whom January is named, was supposed to look both ways: both back to the old year and forward to the new. But in terms of weather, I think Janus is more appropriate to February. Because February, although a winter month, and often cold and snowy, can also frequently be quite mild and spring-like. February, it seems, doesn’t know whether it wants to be true to its winter designation, or instead to start an early spring, taking its cue from Valentine’s Day when birds are supposed to choose their partners and start building their nests.
Many of us may be able to remember the bitter months of February in 1947 and 1963, and as recently as 2018 we experienced the “Beast from the East”. Yet in 2019 there was a record high temperature for February of 21.2C recorded at Kew.
Like February, we ourselves may have something of an identity crisis. Every now and again we can be warm and generous, but we’re not convinced that we can risk being like that too often, and so we can find that it’s easier and safer to be wintry and cold-hearted.
What will February bring for us this year?
Typically, the month of December is a time of frenzied preparation for Christmas celebrations: children posting their letters to Santa, everyone rushing to send out their heartfelt Christmas greetings, buy and wrap gifts, decorate homes, order party food, and so on. The tragedy is that we spend so much of our lives unprepared for Advent, the hope of God-with-us breaking into our chaotic lives. The story of the first Christmas declares how God breaks into our darkness and suffering – taking on flesh, blood and tears. Advent starts amidst darkness and suffering and chaos, but is a journey into light and hope and new purpose as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus our Saviour. This glorious event utterly changed the world in love and that is well worth celebrating. The greatest hope of many hearts this year is that Christmas will not again be cancelled but can be saved, so we can celebrate together with family and friends. As a nation, we invest so much into Christmas celebrations – so much of our time, our money and our hope is wrapped up in the tinsel and sparkle that we rely upon to lift our wintry hearts.
Speaking of tinsel and Christmas parties reminds me to use our Christmas crackers this year: seriously folks, I bought a box of crackers 4 years ago which still remains unopened! Oops! In the spirit of “waste not, want not” I am determined to use them this year without fail. Did you know that the Christmas cracker is a very British tradition? It is commonly accepted that Tom Smith of London invented crackers in 1847 as a development of his bon-bon sweets which he sold in a twist of paper (the origins of the traditional sweet-wrapper). It is claimed that he added the “crackle” element when he heard the crackle of a log he had just put on a fire. The other elements of the modern cracker—the gifts, paper hats and jokes—were introduced by Tom Smith’s son, Walter.
Try not to rush around too much this December. Make time to reflect, wait, watch and hope during Advent, and then enjoy happy Christmas celebrations that really go off with a bang!
Reverend Anthea Wickens
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
November – it’s wintertime!
Plants are dying down and some animals are hibernating- all conserving energy.
In farming communities after a busy Spring of planting, a Summer of tending and an Autumn of harvesting, there is time during the winter months to take things a bit easier and to sit back and reflect on the year gone by and make preparations for the coming Spring.
Some years ago, when the pace of life was much slower, most people found that winter brought a time of quiet, an opportunity to do some of the tasks that couldn’t be done because of the busyness of other times in the year and an opportunity to be more reflective. However, life today seems to never slow down and we try to do as many things
as possible all of the time. The shops, even at the beginning of November [and sometimes even from September] are full of things for Christmas so we start thinking and planning for that weeks in advance.
It would be good to take time to reflect on that verse from Ecclesiastes 3 –”There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
Just as the farmers plant, tend and harvest at the right time as it says in verse 2 of that chapter: “a time to plant and a time to uproot,” it would be good for us to take time to live in the moment and to appreciate and be thankful for all God has given us.
In that same chapter it says:
“He has made everything beautiful in its time” Ecclesiastes 3:11.
Autumn, October my favourite month. Spring is lovely but a very busy time, spring cleaning, sowing seed and digging the garden. Summer, wonderful holidays, outings with the family, and visitors but then comes October, so much less to do, much calmer and usually some good weather. The trees are wonderful colours, walking is a pleasure and yes who doesn’t like to shuffle through the piles of crackly leaves?
In the King James’ version of the Bible autumn is only mentioned once but in newer versions there are between six and fourteen mentions of harvest or autumn. Of course, as with many verses in the Bible the words may not mean exactly what they say. So here are three verses for you to think about as you take a lovely Autumn walk.
Genesis 8 v22
While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest and cold and heat and summer and winter and day and night shall not cease.
Psalm 126 v5&6
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping and carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with them.
Then I will send rain on your land in its season both autumn and spring rains so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil,
by Lesley Barton