We’re well past the winter solstice now and the days are beginning to get longer but the weather can still be gloomy. At the time of writing, we’ve had a few days of especially thick cloud. Elsewhere in the country they’ve had snow — which brings its own challenges but at least brightens the place up a bit.
There’s plenty of metaphorical gloom around at the moment too, of course. The vaccination process is progressing but it is still hard to predict how the next few weeks and months will pan out. Back in the spring of last year there was a lot of warm and sunny weather; now it’s often cold and gloomy and it’s easy to feel deflated. It’s easy to get annoyed or angry. There’s plenty of stress around.
In the way John tells it in his gospel, early in the story of Jesus some curious people approach when their teacher points Jesus out and start a conversation. The first thing Jesus says in the gospel is to them: “What are you looking for?”; and then: “Come and see”.
Darkness can put us in a sombre mood. There’s no denying that it does affect some people quite a lot. With our modern lifestyles which stay much the same all year round and artificial lights and an expectation that life can always go on in the same kind of way, maybe we find it particularly hard to accept the darkness. “Come and see” is not an easy answer. It’s hard to see in the gloom. But one of the images of the presence of God in the Hebrew Scriptures is an image of thick, black cloud.
We may be feeling down at the moment and it’s OK to admit that if it is the case. It’s OK to lament our loss and grief when someone (or even something) which matters so much to us is no longer there. But there is still hope in the darkness, there is still a future we look towards and play our part in bringing in.
I remember reading some time ago about a psychological experiment done on fonts. People had to read things which had been typeset in a variety of different fonts. Some fonts, as you know, are really easy to read. Others actually require quite an effort. I remember being fascinated by the result which, if I remember correctly, was that you could read things in a clear font much more easily and quickly than things in an obscure font. But people remembered better what they had read in an obscure font. Needing to think a bit, needing to work at it a bit, seemed to pay off.
Sometimes exactly what you need is a sign which is nice and clear to read; but sometimes you need something which will stay with you. Maybe gloom can, just occasionally, be good.
Revd Paul Carter, Minister, Kidlington Methodist Church