Dear Friends,

June LaneThe days are slowly lengthening, Vaccinations against COVID-19 are underway, the first snowdrops are about to appear. Lockdown is still with us, the numbers of the dead from COVID-19 grow day by day and the Christmas decorations are all gone. Last Friday the sun shone brilliantly and if you stood out of a draught it felt quite Springlike; on Saturday it poured with rain!!

Late January, early February, a time of such contrasts, a time when we can either be totally depressed or optimistic about the future.

In the church calendar we are still in the Season of Epiphany, the season of Light, of Revelation, but sandwiched between Christmas and Easter Epiphany tends to be almost ignored and that is such a shame. If we think about all of those contrasts in my opening paragraph, Epiphany encourages us to concentrate on the positive, the joyous. To celebrate the shortening days and the snowdrops, the hope given by the Vaccination programme, to give thanks for the good things of the season.

If you are of a romantic disposition, you may be hoping for a special card or some flowers on one particular day in February, the 14th, St Valentine’s Day. On an online design site I sometimes visit, I am being bombarded with designs all focussed on the shape of the human heart, the suggestions for their use range from the extravagant to the minimal, and I often wonder just how many of them are actually used and what their recipients think. Do they keep the articles made using them to use during the year or, once we reach the 15th do they end up in the recycling bin, hours of loving labour literally being shredded!!

Like the contrasts at this time of year and in this particular year, St Valentine’s Day came from a series of extreme events. Valentine was a priest living in the time of the Roman Empire. Just then the Emperor needed a large army and to make sure he had a vast pool of young men to choose from, he outlawed marriage. Valentine felt sorry for young couples who wished to marry, and he disobeyed the Emperor’s edict and married many young couples. Of course he was found out and, because he was breaking the Emperor’s direct edict, thrown into prison and condemned to death. There he still ministered to the prisoners and when he discovered that the jailer’s daughter was blind he laid his hands on her and prayed. She was healed but even so Valentine was executed. Before he died he wrote to her to encourage her to live her life for God and he signed it, from your Valentine, with love.

So let us all concentrate on the positive, the good things on offer this month. Remember that even in this time of restrictions and danger God is still with us and loves us, that there are so many good things happening around us. We can all show that love in so many little actions and words. Let’s all look forward to the joy of Easter to come.

June Lane