As I write this, it is mid-January and my crib still sits on top of the piano in my sitting room. It’s simple wooden figures of the holy family and the animals were carved in Oberammergau and brought back for me by my Godfather when I was 14. Rob has since fashioned a stable, complete with the rather modern convenience of electric lighting and every Christmas I tend to arrange hazel twigs behind it. In the warmth of the house, the catkins open up and are now shedding their pollen generously over the furniture. Traditionally in church we remove decorations but leave the crib up for the season of Epiphany – until Candlemas; the first Sunday in February. ‘Epiphany’ means revelation and we recall how God revealed himself as a vulnerable human baby; in need of his parents care and protection; a child who became a man sent to guide our feet into the ‘Way of Peace’, to teach the good news of love and forgiveness. Seeds of this gospel (good news) have drifted all over the inhabited world in the 2000 years which have elapsed; just as my catkins have shed their pollen liberally round my sitting room.
However, we sometimes forget that God’s first revelation of himself was his Creation. The psalmist writes of the power of sky and sea to speak of God;
‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.’
Many of us, myself included, choose to seek the divine in the natural world; beautiful gardens or windswept mountains. The intricate beauty of the Christmas rose, picked this week from my garden, is just one example. These things feed our souls and are life-giving, but they are fragile too. The natural environment was entrusted to human stewardship, just as God entrusted his son to human care. For the six weeks of Lent, which starts on February 26th, we will be reminding ourselves of the six ‘days’ of Creation and our responsibility to look after our earthly home and the creatures who share it with us. This is a timely message as Britain prepares to host the UN Climate Change Conference 2020 in Glasgow this November. Why don’t you join us - and children in the three schools of our Benefice -as we follow the 40-day challenge, #LiveLent , to care for our environment.