The sun will come out.

In the midst of a long Scottish winter you’d be forgiven for believing that the sun had ceased to exist. You can go for days, weeks even, without seeing a chink of sky, let alone the sun. My husband describes it as living under a Tupperware box.

I was sitting this week with a friend in her office, and we looked out over the city and bemoaned the short, dark days, the grim, grey sky and how long there was to go until spring. A fellow worker came into the room, looked out the window and declared that sun was about to come out. Oh how we laughed. And laughed and laughed. We continued our conversation and fifteen minutes later, lo and behold, there was a bright light squeezing through the clouds. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the sun came all the way out, but he did his best to gleam through the clouds for a few minutes, to remind us that all is not lost. He’s still there, giving us enough light and heat to live by through the winter. There are more dark days to come but in a few months time we’ll begin to see him again. (Although not too regularly, because we live in Scotland, and he clearly has important business elsewhere.)

001.JPG

Holding on to hope when everything around seems grey is a very hard thing to do.

Over the Christmas period I was struck by the stories of Simeon and Anna, who encountered Jesus when he was presented in the Temple. They had been waiting to meet him for a long time. A very long time

A Messiah had been promised. God had spoken many times through the prophets.

And then silence.

Four hundred years of silence.

How many lost hope in that time? Declared that God had forgotten them? Life was too hard and the Almighty too distant.

But God was still there, still whispering to his people, “Hope is coming. Hold on!”

Simeon listened to that whisper and believed. When all around was grey and silent he held on to hope, and acted upon it.

Anna had been married a short seven years before she lost her husband and became a widow. She knew the darkness of grief and loss, the ache of loneliness. But she lifted her eyes to heaven, held on to the promise of hope, living for the day when she would see it come to life. Year after year of praying and waiting, worshiping and watching.

And then he came.

Hope was born.

Everything changed. The world need never look so bleak again. There would forever and always be the promise of better.

For those of us who believe, we have the assurance that no sky of grey is ever without that chink of hope, no day too long or dark that his redeeming presence cannot bring comfort, and no path so uncertain that his lamp cannot lead us home. We can learn from the example of Anna, waiting in hope and faith through the years of grief and silence, trusting in the promises of Scripture.

But this gift is not for us to cherish alone. There are those around us trapped in the grey.

Sometimes people need to be told, the sun is going to come out, there is a God who loves and cares for you. And when they laugh at the seeming nonsense of that statement, because they cannot see or comprehend a God who loves them, we are to be the ones who pull back the clouds so they can feel His warmth.

A friend of mine once talked about what the Good News of the gospel actually looked like to people. Ultimately we share the good news of Jesus and the everlasting hope that He brings. But to an overwhelmed single Mum with two small children, perhaps good news comes first as an offer of babysitting. To an isolated and lonely older person, maybe good news looks like company before it looks like anything else. To the person being bullied, good news looks like a champion, a defender. And to the outcast it looks like a welcome, a place to belong.

Hope is here. We know it and celebrate it, hold on to it and are strengthened by it, bask in its warmth and turn our faces towards it.

And then we share it.

For Scotland

I have a hope for Scotland, tentative yet growing stronger by the day.

It comes from a week spent with the young people of this nation, from those who came to gather around the cross.

They represented towns and villages from north and south, churches of the east and west, schools, clubs and families. But they stood together under the banner of Jesus. And something new began to stir.

Their only allegiance was Christ and their only mission to proclaim his name to the nation.

This generation have not yet drawn lines in the sand separating them from their brothers and sisters. They have not been tainted by our tribal divisions and suspicions, have not yet inherited our prejudices.

I believe there is a new thing being birthed, where it will not matter who gets the credit, or whose church grows fastest, as long as people find their way to the Saviour. And so I have a mighty hope for Scotland.

But I also have a fear.

That we who have at times allowed other things to become more important than being sold out for Jesus, who have let our divisions blind us to our true priority, would somehow by our discouragement and disunity, quash the flame that has been lit in them.

And so I pray that we as the church would leave them unshackled from our history, our expectations, that we would instead boldly cheer them on as they go together to reach their streets, schools and cities, and that they will do together as family what we have failed to manage in our divided little parishes and pockets.

I pray that they continue to rally under the name of Jesus with their only passion being Him and making Him known. That we would help fan into flame this love so that a forest fire sweeps this nation.

And that they would lead us in a new way of walking as the church in this land.