My father, who came over from Australia to stay with me for Christmas and much of January, found the dark evenings very disorientating. He had come from the brightness of a subtropical summer, arriving in England close to the shortest day of the year. It took most of his stay to get himself orientated to the time of day. He was never convinced when I told him that the days were lengthening – to him they were alike – grey days with VERY long nights.
But we, who live here, are very aware of the increase of day light. It might only change by minutes each day but we are conscious that there is more daytime very quickly. Light comes into our world and we look forwards, knowing that spring is on its way. Then the first snow drops appear, followed by aconites, and we are confident that there will be an end to winter – even if we know we still have bad weather to endure. Increasing daylight and the first flowers do not bring a promise of lovely weather, what they give is hope that the bitterness of winter will not last forever.
The cycle of the Christian year also brings us immense hope. We know that there are very dark periods in our lives that we have to endure. Lent is part of the winter season for the church. It is the time when we, through acts of self denial and discipline, draw closer to the pain both of Christ, as he turned his face towards Jerusalem and death, and the world. We touch on the darkness of grief and the loss that so many people have to face. But we do so with the hope and promise of Easter and resurrection. As we look around at the appalling acts of terrorism and violence that are committed in our world, the suffering of vulnerable people in many places, we grieve with God and feel the chill of winter. But the Easter story and the Christian year tells us that there is hope. We believe that we have a God of love who will not leave us in winter forever but will bring his light and joy into the dark places of the world. We have a God whose power raised Jesus from the dead. He will bring healing to the broken world and joy where there is now pain. We don’t know how it will happen, or when, but we know that he will. Just as seeing the increasing daylight tells us that one day it will be summer again, so does the season of Lent. We know that it will come to an end and we will be met by the risen Christ on Easter morning. So our Christian hope is that one day God will make all things new. As Julian of Norwich said, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.’
Do not lose hope. As Christmas gives way to Lent and Lent to Easter, God is promising us that pain and darkness will give way to joy and redemption. Just keep trusting.