What are the chances of a white Christmas?  2010 was.  Last year wasn’t.  This year?  No one can really tell — yet! It’s not just that everything looks so beautiful in the snow, at least to start with (!), but it’s also to do with winter being winter.

Our trees and plants are healthier when we have had frosts for a few weeks.  Partly, of course, this is because very cold weather kills the bugs and the fungal infections that can damage crops in our gardens, fields and farms.  But also, a few weeks cold makes sure that our trees and plants do stop growing and become dormant during the winter, ready to burst into new life, more healthily and vigorously, in the spring.

Just as it would not be good for our plants and trees to have no difference between autumn, winter, spring and summer, so that is true for us, too.  If life was very much the same one day to the next, one month to the next and one year to the next, we should be very quick to say that it was “boring”.  We might not like all the fluctuations that we do experience, all the highs and lows, but we need them.  The variation not only enables us to appreciate the rich diversity, but also to grow and develop.  Different experiences call up different reactions and different qualities from us, and what we learn in the process can enrich us.

If there was only day and no night, we should appreciate the sun far less.  We are in the month of the year when we shall see, all too soon, the shortest day of the year. But then everything changes again.  The sunlight starts to “win” against the dark.  The great light gets stronger. And that is when we celebrate Christmas.  The Light of God has come into the world in Jesus and it is a light which always overcomes the dark.  This Light will find its way into all our dark corners, if we let it, and if we can welcome Jesus’ love in.  Like the days getting longer, the Light of Jesus will grow in us and fills us more and more fully, casting out all the darkness.

There is our Advent and Christmas hope.

+ Anthony

A letter from the Bishop of Hereford

December 2012