From Friday 24th November 2023
Having been a proud resident of Royal Leamington Spa for more than thirty years I have come to love our beautiful town in every season.
But I have to admit there’s something very special about this time of year when the daylight fades mid-afternoon and – just when you think things couldn’t get any gloomier – our streets sparkle into colourful life with the switching on of the seasonal lights, marking cross-community celebrations of Diwali and Christmas.
What a difference they make, lifting our spirits, especially on wet and miserable evenings.
Sadly, beautiful as they are, the lights are with us for just a few midwinter weeks. Come January our streets will revert to their normal night-time lighting, seeming dark and dismal in comparison to the fun and fizzle that preceded them.
Early in November I was at The Warwickshire Club for their spectacular firework celebration: a thrilling, eye-popping display of dazzling lights. But so short-lived, dying away with the gasps of astonishment that greeted them.
I guess many of us can identify with the sense of sadness and low-spirits that can accompany the short days and long nights of winter. We yearn for the warmth and brightness of spring.
Often in our everyday lives we experience challenges, difficult times. A well-meaning friend may say: ‘Don’t worry, there’s sure to be light at the end of the tunnel.’ And we hang on to the hope of light that dispels darkness and illuminates that path ahead.
On one occasion Jesus (recorded in St John’s account of His life in the Bible) claimed that He is the light of the world: anyone following Him would never walk in darkness and they would have the light of life (John 8:12). This is such great news for us today, which I find both comforting and challenging.
Comforting because that promise of light renews my confidence and gives me courage to take the next step on my journey.
Challenging, too! The light doesn’t remove life’s obstacles and difficulties. But how much better it is to face them with the shadows of doubt and worry reduced.
Sounds a bit glib? Yes, this promise of light could seem like an ‘easy answer’, particularly in the face of the heartbreaking darkness and distress that we witness via our nightly news bulletins.
But I take comfort from the fact that they don’t come from some remote, unearthly, detached spiritual being. They were spoken by Jesus – fully God and fully human – born in poverty, who knew what it was to be a refugee and lived out His life bringing hope and healing to rich and poor alike, before the terrible suffering of His final days.
No surprise, then, that I am a big fan of all the brightness and good cheer of this time of year. My Christmas tree will soon by in place and aglow with sparkling lights. But even more importantly, as the Christmas lights eventually leave our homes and streets, I’ll be celebrating the light that countless people turn to in good times and bad.
I believe that if we place our hope and trust in God we will experience Jesus’ light everyday and in any situation. His light never goes out and will always light up the deepest darkness.
Rev Anne Hibbert
Founder and Director of Ministry
The Well Christian Healing Centre
20 Augusta Place, Leamington Spa