This photograph of Winter at Tarns Hows, in the Lake District, was taken by my friend Gill Henwood. It immediately brought to mind the Carol, See, Amid the winter’s snow. A reminder, too, that as the secular world packs away the Christmas decorations, Christians continue to celebrate the Christmas season, which, like Lent lasts for 40 days and comes to a conclusion on the Feast of Candlemass – February 2nd.
I offer this Carol as a continued meditation on the joy of the birth of Jesus, and the photo of God’s incredible brushtrokes as the snow dusts the wonders of nature. Long ago I climbed up to the summit of Helvellyn and saw this view from the other direction though not in winter . The breathtaking beauty is captured in the stillness around the Tarn and the movement of the clouds. For me it becomes an illustration, therefore, of the importance of balancing our activity with stillness.
For many this time of lockdown has provided opportunities, for those so minded and are able, to spend time in quietness and be reminded that we are not required to always be on the go. Indeed, that would be harmful. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 46, Be still and know that I am God. Those battling to nurse and care for patients in hospital, Covid sufferers and those with other life-threatening illnesses, cannot be still, nor those who are caring for people at home. So the call to stillness for those free to sit within it is a call to pray and be still on behalf of others. Prayer is never a last resort in any situation, it is always the first resort. We can do a mighty work just holding people in love to God.
I once questioned a nun about those in her community who were living the life of hermits in Wales. I had the temerity to say that they had it easy. They were free to pray as they wished. In the non-fierce ways that nuns have, she begged to differ! “The hermits are in the front-line of the battle against the demonic and all that is evil and which afflicts the life of our world. We hold them in love to God as they battle against darkness on our behalf.” I remember what she told me almost word for word!
Those of us who are able to do the same are doing a great and vital ministry ministry.
May the photo above help us to see what that ministry is. Stillness and contemplation of God together with activity on His behalf in loving others in prayer on His behalf. Especially those whose lives are very dark and very fearful right now.
1 See, amid the winter’s snow,
born for us on earth below,
see the tender Lamb appears,
promised from eternal years.
Hail! Thou ever-blessed morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
2 Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He, who throned in height sublime,
sits amid the cherubim! [Refrain]
3 Say, ye holy shepherds, say,
what your joyful news today;
wherefore have ye left your sheep
on the lonely mountain steep? [Refrain]
4 “As we watched at dead of night,
lo, we saw a wondrous light;
angels singing ‘Peace on earth’
told us of the Savior’s birth.” [Refrain]
5 Sacred Infant, all divine,
what a tender love was Thine;
thus to come from highest bliss
down to such a world as this! [Refrain]
6 Teach, O teach us, Holy Child,
by Thy face so meek and mild,
teach us to resemble Thee
in Thy sweet humility! [Refrain]