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Dear Friends,

Between stepping out of the car and entering West Park Church there are no more than a few paces.  It all sounds easy to do – but this is Harrogate that I am talking about and Harrogate is a town my father-in-law describes as being “an overcoat colder than anywhere else”.  In other words, by the time we get to midwinter, there is a distinct edge to breezes which chill people to the marrow in seconds.  Any benefit of cocoon-like comfort within a motor car is lost en route to the church door.   Only when inside the church do you re-enter an atmosphere once again that wraps a comforting cloak of warmth about your person.

Haste may be necessary more times than not.  It is a pity, though, that the coldness which creates a need for speed rarely receives credit for anything of beauty.  Slow down!  If we are not in too much of an undignified rush from one comfort zone to another then a treat awaits us.  You see, right in front of the car parking spaces there are window boxes situated conveniently at eye-level and each window box contains winter-flowering cyclamen. 

Wherever indoor plants are on sale in shops at this time of year, it is fairly safe to expect numerous pots of cyclamens in their midst.  They carry large flowers in brash shades of pink and, to be fair, perform remarkably well in houses where central heating tends to make most other plants suffer.  But if you pause to look at those cyclamen which are planted outside where they positively thrive in cold weather then you will observe how much more delicate each flower appears.  Colours, too, are easier on the eye.  Each plant is crowned by little flags that dance with joy in the cold wind of winter.  It would be so sad if we were always in such haste that we overlooked a bonny cyclamen.  If we could just slow down.  If we could think beyond our own little world.   There is a line in Jean Anouilh’s play ‘Becket’ which states, “Beauty is one of the few things which don’t shake one’s faith in God.”

Christmas will cause many feelings to come to the surface.  It is a season of excitement, joy, wonder, fond memories and so many more.  Above all these, Christmas is a time when we encounter great beauty.  That comes as we hear the story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.  He was born in the most humble of places yet nothing less than a heavenly choir of angels proclaimed the event.  The beauty is that God gave us his only son.  Heaven came down to earth –  and earth has never been the same again.

Slow down this Christmas.  Take a moment to offer a prayer of gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all His blessings which fill our days.  Try it now.  Try it – and begin dancing with joy in the cold wind of winter! 

Your Minister and friend,