[To listen to an audio version of this blog please click here: http://bit.ly/2B9niPD]
"Are you ready for Christmas?" asked a poem read out on Sunday.
It was our carol service; the church was packed.
We have a pretty church, parts of it dating back to the 600s; part of it built only ten years ago. It sits on the banks of the river Ouse, set on a rise, so the floods of winter never reach it, although they come right up to the gate.
From the church door, you look across the water meadows. In summer they are lush, grazed by fat cattle, their tails flicking in the sunshine; swallows darting between the willows. In December, they are a scene in monochrome: grey pencilled lines of grass and charcoal etched branches against a Payne's Grey wash of sky. And between the church and that view, the river.
There have been times when the river has called to me, in my darkness. After rain or snow it runs deep and fast. Branches and other flotsam caught in it, end up at Denver Sluice, fifty miles away. They are used to retrieval operations there.
But my medication is keeping the darkness away. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of it and know it's out there, still lurking. It would love to draw me down – deep down. But it can't, at least, not right now.
So, I stood with quiet joy in my heart as the choir sang the first verse of Once in Royal David's City; unaccompanied and in candlelight.
The first reading was from Isaiah. I sat back and prepared for one of my favourite passages, "The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light." But it wasn't Isaiah 9, but Isaiah 42: "A bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out."
I imagine, if you are reading this, that – like me – you have often felt like a bruised reed; battered and trodden down in the mud. You have felt it impossible ever to rise again. You have felt as if your flame is the tiniest flicker, just one step away from the grey ash that signals the end of light. Maybe you're there right now. I know there have been many Christmases when I have been there.
This is not a religious post; I wouldn't do that to you – but in answer to the question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" No – I haven't got all my presents. Nothing is wrapped. My cards are unwritten. I haven't got a Christmas menu sorted, let alone bought the food.
But – I am ready for the real message of Christmas. I'm ready for that message of hope, born in darkness. I am ready to hear that my broken reed will be lifted, supported and nursed back to strength. I'm ready to hear that my flickering candle flame will be gently breathed on so it gives light again.
That message of hope applies throughout the year and not just in December.
I'm certainly ready for that.
A Moodscope member.