We See The Light At The End Of The Tunnel*
(By Canon Stuart Mitchell)
The retirement home of the former Rector of Clare and his lady wife, Mrs M, has a marvellous vista of the fens. A view that reaches infinity when the land and the sky merge as one. Except on some days, like this morning, the mist obscures everything beyond one hundred metres. On a fine day, the view is narrowed between two dwellings but there is no mistaking the flatness of the fenlands of East Cambridgeshire. Shortening the focus to five metres draws your attention to the home of thirty or more sparrows, dunnocks, blue tits, and starlings with a robin or two to add a splash of colour to the picture. The hedges at certain times of the day are alive with the chatter. Mrs M provides handfuls of food to supplement the berries and insects and that draws some of the birds even closer to the patio doors.
The thing is when watching some of those marvellous wildlife programmes, the skill of the camera operator can follow the birds and animals allowing us at home to see detail, very difficult to capture with the naked eye. Our real-life nature watch is of course somewhat different. We must sit, patiently, quietly waiting, paying attention hoping to capture the moment. Some try to capture that moment using a camera, be it on a phone or as an optical instrument in its own right. Often in a blink of an eye we miss it; the sparrow hawk that swooped on the feeding ground birds, a grey blur and a few floating feathers a reminder of the beauty of the balance of nature and the feeding hierarchy that exists in nature.
I have over the years tried to capture the moment: my amateur skill as a photographer bringing surprising results. In the early days my preferred subjects being anything on wheels travelling faster than the national speed limit. Usually confined to the racetracks I hoped that through the telephoto lens of the camera I might capture an instant of hesitation leading to an incident or a moment of control that defies the laws of physics displaying the skill of the rider or driver and the man behind the camera – me. Over time I found missed more than I caught, such that I laid down my camera to enjoy the spectacle of the race and the skills of the divers and riders, happy to snap away at the cars and bikes at rest. Capturing the moment no longer matters.
I write on the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple – Candlemas. If that doesn’t mean anything much, then St Luke 2:22-40. The stories of Simeon and Anna capture in a moment the child Jesus being made known for a third time after the shepherds and the magi that the world would change forever. Simeon concludes his work is done, leaving us his words “Lord let your servant go now…” Anna praises God and she hopes that all will be well. Sometimes looking for that special moment we miss the wider picture. Other times we are in the moment, as were Simeon and Anna, when Jesus is revealed, and lives change forever, and the wider view doesn’t matter. They are both aware of the change coming as the light of Jesus dispels the darkness.
Over the last year, we have been told at times that the light is at the end of the tunnel when life can return to freedom to move where and whenever we wish. Mischievously some add that they hope it is not a train coming the other way! But surely for the Christian, Jesus the Light of the World, is the only example or illustration needed to bring hope to an end of the coronavirus.
Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,(Luke 2.29-32)
according to your word;for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
* © Richard Stilgoe, from the musical “Starlight Express”, 1984
(Image: photo taken by the author)