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Christmas 2004

Iris Reticulata

While UK weather is more than ever unpredictable in the months from December to April, underground there is normally a predictable, quiet revolution going on. Quite soon the beautiful, small Iris Reticulata and the even smaller Aconites will be gracing the sheltered spots in our gardens. However, at this time it is what goes on above ground that will take more and more of the attention of families and nations. As a starter, twinkling lights have appeared in the windows and gardens of many houses surrounding me here. Father Christmas? Yes, probably! But there is a residual understanding of that astonishing text in the gospel of John - 'The light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never mastered it.' In the winter we all long for the light to return. Its warmth and illumination nourish not only the body but the mind and the spirit. From childhood to old age the night has often been a hazardous, fearful time for many people.

We may also rightly wonder whether, in that cockpit of civilisation, the Middle East, and in some parts of Africa, there will ever be the enlightenment of peace and goodwill instead of war and the evil deeds of the few who reject the light. It is also ironic, some will say, that Jesus, hailed as the prince of peace in Christian hymns, and in his life bringing healing and peace to many individuals whom he met, has seemed to leave us to our warlike devices throughout the centuries. Even his followers have failed to agree with one another and in the awful pogroms in the Middle Ages, decided to kill those who were termed 'heretics'. Peace and light?

The darkness of suffering and death has been all too often the message of the church throughout the ages. But Jesus brought the good news of light and life and, hidden away in the church's riches, there is the good news of resurrection: first of the Lord who was transfigured in light in communion with the Father and then finally vindicated and raised to glory: the Lord of the world. He calls us today to be with him to bring reconciliation, and to be in ourselves the reflection of his light to others. In his birth he was like us: in our lives we have the promise to become like him, the risen Lord.

Soon the days will begin to lengthen and the aconites and irises will reflect the splendour of that light that can never be quenched.

Peace and joy in the Lord!

© Aelred Arnesen

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