The Revd Canon Dr Elizabeth Thomson writes…

The light comes back

The earth tilts on its axis and the year turns. We are past the winter solstice. Even though the mornings go on getting darker for a couple of weeks, the light is stretching out and the days are a few tiny seonds longer. ‘In the mid-midwinter,’ writes the Scottish poet Liz Lochhead, when everything is bleak, even so

the light comes back
the light always comes back.

Christmas has come and the light is here. The carol services, modern or ancient, hesitant or triumphant, hyper-organised or slightly incoherent, candlelit or floodlit, have all proclaimed it: ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ And now in the church year the season of Epiphany offers us time to take in the light, to blink, to look again, to learn to see. An epiphany is a moment of realisation, when something begins to sink in. Christ is born! we have all sung, and now we begin to look at that light and the state of the world it dawns in. 

The world’s school report at the end of 2019 was not good reading. Peace: shows no willingness to put in the effort demanded and is constantly distracted by rumours of wars. Truth: although this concept has been clearly explained, the world keeps finding ways to avoid it. Health: a very worrying tendency to overheat. Overall, could do better.

So it’s bleak and there’s a lot of darkness around. But the light shines in the darkness. Epiphany gives us time to think about that. The wise men come following a star and we see how Herod reacts to a threat to his political power. Jesus is baptised among a crowd of people coming out from the city to try to put their lives right. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reminds us of our capacity to disagree about God’s good news. Through all this, through the complexity of working out that good news in the world and through our ability to get it wrong, the light goes on shining. 

The light, in Lochhead’s poem, is out there, gathering, strengthening, working its way towards us who are still in the dark of winter. ‘The light always comes back’: 

there will be the winter moon for us to love the longest,
fat in the frosty sky among the sharpest stars,
and lines of old songs we can’t remember
why we know
or when first we heard them
will aye come back
once in a blue moon to us

and bless us with their long-travelled light.


Revd Canon Dr Elizabeth Thomson

Acting Dean of Derby

The Diocese of Derby

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