January is statistically the coldest month in the year on average although sadly February is not very much warmer. In the face of the cold, people seek refuge from it in the warmest places. I always think cats and dogs are good guides as they often have a favourite warm place. Making a place warm takes effort and money. Sadly many people are struggling to keep warm with the cost of living crisis. They often need help in practical ways like making warm places available during the day. It is important to remember those people who need practical help when the weather is very cold.
As I grew up, all but one of our houses had central heating with radiators, although the first house we lived in had electric storage heaters in a couple of the rooms. The rest of the house was cold. Everyone migrated to the two warm rooms in the house and even these would get colder during the evening when the stored heat ran out. I remember going to bed early to hide under the bedclothes. I went to visit an aunt; she had an open fire with coal in the grate. I was fascinated by the glowing red coals and the heat they produced. I settled down in front of the fire like a cat. What is interesting about the coal on the outside of the fire is that it is black, yet very hot. If with a pair of tongs, you remove it from the fire and leave it on its own it will cool down and not burn. The coal needs the heat of the fire to get it to the point of burning and to produce heat itself. The same can be said about our emotional and spiritual warmth. If we become separated from friends and family emotionally we can become lonely and isolated. Being a good neighbour to someone can restore the warmth of human relationships, just by talking to each other and showing kindness.
Spiritually if we lose contact with God and other people who share the same spiritual values then the world seems to be a hopeless place. Being in a relationship with God challenges us to look at our other relationships with family, friends and neighbours. God wants us to make them the best they can be. This means sharing the warmth of friendships and acting practically to help those in need.
Rector’s Sabbatical Leave
Sabbatical means a ceasing or a rest from work. The foundational Bible passage for sabbatical concepts is in Genesis where God rested (literally, “ceased” from his labour) after creating the universe. After ten years of service in the church, you can apply for a sabbatical. I will have completed twenty-three years of service in June this year. Some people take the opportunity of doing something completely different like doing some research, writing a book or completing a pilgrimage. I will be trying to follow the biblical model of taking a rest. I will have a long holiday in January. In February I will make a pilgrimage to the place of my birth in Chile. The last time I was in Chile was 1972, so I will return some fifty-one years later. I am on sabbatical leave from 1st Jan to 31st March. The churchwardens will be the first point of contact for church matters.