February as a month does not have a lot going for it. Christmas is long past; summer is ages away, and coughs, colds and seasonal bugs are doing their worst. The sun comes out to tease, but as my African friends say, the winter sun in Britain is nothing more than decoration in the sky. And in the middle of February, what does the church have to offer? Ash Wednesday! The start of forty days (and forty nights as the old hymn gloomily reminds us) of fasting before Easter.
On the other hand, there may just be some glimmer of hope. I was reminded the other day of something that Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy that if we have ‘clothing and food we will be content’ (I Timothy 6:8). We should understand ‘clothing’ to include basic shelter, but I would rather like to include books, cds (and something to play them on), my phone, tablet (not Apple though), family photos, central heating, pictures on the wall, television, tickets for every Wales game (I wish)… and that’s without thinking too hard.
The particular challenge of Lent in these dark days of February is to allow ourselves the question – what really matters to me? Each day that passes has a little more light as we move slowly but surely towards Easter and the promise of resurrection and hope. In the light of the hope that Jesus is and that Jesus promises, perhaps the days of Lent are just the opportunity to evaluate who we are and what we live for. And I suspect that if we are looking forward to Easter and looking up to Jesus, we will at the same time be learning what it means to be content. And by God’s grace others might notice and see some hope.
The Revd Canon Dr Tudor Griffiths, Rector and Area Dean of Cheltenham