We are inclined to make our churches and homes beautiful for Christmas, and there is a certain expectation that everyone will try to brighten up their surroundings at this time of the year - even though, as we know, some people find December, and the whole Advent and Christmas season to be the difficult time for them, perhaps underlining loneliness whilst families celebrate, or remembrance connected with a past or present sorrow.
But there are beauties that remind us of natural loveliness, which neither mood nor outlook can change. Yesterday, driving around Wareham, and through the flood meadows, Helen and I experienced one of those moments that one can’t plan. They just happen. Two swans flew across the road, just ahead of us and just above us. They were close enough for us to be amazed, as I often am, at the sheer size of these birds, but far enough away to appreciate their flight for perhaps half a minute. We reminded ourselves of the pairing of these birds for life and talked for a while of their symbolism and inherent grace.
Winter Jasmine is another of the glories of these days, while other plants stir and give promise of colour yet to come - such as the primroses, still in green leaf. but growing vigorously - but the yellow of Winter Jasmine is fabulous at the moment, tumbling over the rectory front wall, looking bright and cheerful against the sombre ivy and damp stone.
May light shine in the darkness of hearts drawn down with difficulty or pain today, and may the little beauties around us be noticed by us all and fill us with the longing and desire of this season of Advent for all that Christ lived and died to bring.