Christmas lights

A Thought for the Day for Black Cat Radio on 12th December 2020

Hello, I hope you’re all keeping well.

Walking around near where I live, I’ve noticed a lot of people have put their Christmas lights up outside. Some mutter that it’s too early, but I think this year, of all years, we need to cut each other some slack and appreciate people putting in the effort to brighten things up a bit. The lights on the houses are all different from one another and give a lovely variety to look at in the dark. I find them very cheering.

The desire for light in the darkness is very old, going back to the days when our earliest ancestors would huddle round a fire at night for warmth, light, and safety. With light we can see where we are going, know who and what is around, and feel a bit safer. On one of my recent walks, I nearly bumped into someone walking her dog on an unlit pathway. This was not only embarrassing but we also both thought that a light would’ve made that part of the walk so much nicer.

Christmas, like many festivals and celebrations at this time of year, is all about light. Not just physical light, although there’s plenty of that with bright stars, shining angels, and so on, but a spiritual and inner light. The story of God coming to earth as a human baby brings light to many by offering comfort, hope and joy. It also reassures us God is not some far-off man with a beard sitting on a cloud. Rather, God comes right down into the darkness and mess to share our lives, help us cope with darkness and difficulty, and show us a better, more fulfilling, more loving way to live.

So, as we go towards Christmas, and look forward to the Covid-19 vaccine hopefully making a difference next year, why not remind yourself of the story of that first Christmas and see if there’s light in it for you?


Take care


Travelling in the Dark

“At the moment many of us feel like we’re travelling an unfamiliar path. We’re not sure where we’re going or how long the journey will last. Yet, in all this God offers us his hand to guide us through the unknown, whatever happens. Here is prayer I find helpful from the book “Rooted in God’s Love”:

I can’t see very well, Lord.

I certainly am not familiar with this path.

Are you sure you know where this leads?

This feels like a pretty rough trail to me, Lord.

Are you sure I can make it?

Be my guide, Lord.

I am afraid. I would be lost without you.

Guide me, Lord.

Turn darkness into light.

Make the rough places smooth.

Do not forsake me.



A ‘Thought for the Day’ for Black Cat Radio on 19th October 2019

Have you noticed how much difference light makes?

As I’m writing this it’s a bit cold outside but the sky is blue and the sun is out and it suddenly seems so much easier to get things done compared to the last few days of dark skies and gloomy weather. Lots of people find the darker days of autumn and winter a struggle, finding that as the days get shorter and darker they are more tired, and feel down a lot. Special daylight lamps can help with this but there’s nothing like a walk in one of those bright winter days when the sun is out to lift moods and spirits. Light can make a massive difference to us in many ways – just think of how a sinister shape in the dark can be revealed as a harmless piece of furniture when the light is on, or of how having a torch in a power cut can make the difference between falling over things and being able to walk confidently.

Light is also important in lots of faiths, including Christianity. One of the first things God does in the Bible is say “let there be light”, and in the Bible light is a symbol of knowledge and understanding, of new insights, of comfort and of justice. You might have seen that famous picture called “The Light of the World” by an artist called Holman Hunt which shows Jesus standing in a dark place holding a lantern, knocking at a door. Hunt painted this to represent how God comes to us and asks to be let into our lives but doesn’t force us to let him in. But to me this is also a comforting reminder that God is always ready to offer us his light, even when things are dark or difficult, if we feel like opening the door to him.

So as we get further into autumn and winter let’s celebrate light and remember that it’s always just around the corner.

The Art of Advent

I am reading The Art of Advent: A Painting a Day from Advent to Epiphany by Jane Williams.

As you might guess, it gives a painting for each day with a reflection and a short prayer.

Today’s picture was the above – The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt.

It’s a very familiar picture but I had never noticed what Williams points out – that there are 3 sources of light within it.

There’s the dawn light struggling through the dark trees – which makes me think of hope, far off perhaps, but still fighting through the gloom.

Then there’s the lantern that Jesus carries – a friendly light to my mind, calling us in.

And finally there’s a light coming from Jesus himself, shining round his head – this I see as the light of holiness, reminding us that this stranger knocking on our door is God himself, humbly asking for our attention in a strange and wonderful turn of events.

And the prayer that Williams gives us at the end:

Lord of gentle might, may we hear the patient knocking of your Son, Jesus Christ, this Advent, and open all our doors to the flood of your mercy, poured out for us in the power of the Spirit. Amen.






Witnesses and Curators

Listening to a sermon this morning one particular phrase jumped out at me and has stayed in my head ever since:

“I would proclaim the gospel from the rubble of this church rather than become its curator”.

The preacher was talking about focusing on what really matters: putting Jesus at the centre of what we do, reaching out to others in mission and generosity, rather than focusing too much on our financial security, maintaining our buildings, and propping up our institutions.

Now, I (and indeed the preacher) do see the importance of our church buildings as signs of witness, as centres of mission, and as places for Christians to gather and worship.

But in that person’s passion for the gospel, for being a light of witness in an often dark world, I believe I caught a glimpse of God.

For it’s the good news of the gospel that matters above all – that God loves us, that Jesus died for us, that we don’t need to struggle alone because God is with us, and that sin, darkness, death and evil will not ultimately win.

This is an important message, especially right now, when we see hatred, prejudice, discrimination and bigotry spreading through society at all levels, when it’s government policy to create a “hostile environment”, when people are forced to rely on handouts and food banks because of a heartless and unfair benefits system.

At such a time do we, as the Church, really want prioritise our buildings and desire for security above reaching out to help people in desperate need?

Or do we want to say yes, we need our buildings, but let’s also look beyond the walls to the people in urgent need of help?

Sadly, for many people, Christians can be anything from irrelevant to nasty, idiots to prejudiced.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were known as people who love, care and welcome, as people who stand up for the vulnerable and share love and generosity?

Would it be wonderful if we could all share in God’s urgent desire to find and save the lost, bind up the brokenhearted, and to bring as many people into his kingdom as possible?

May God give us grace to show his light in the world.