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A Christmas reflection from our Chaplain, Stephen Gurr

Monday 21 December 2020

My glow in the dark dog collar!

Hello, I’m Stephen and I’m the Lead for Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy at St Barnabas House and today I’d like to tell you about my evening walks on the downs or in the woods with my black dog.

Every year when the clocks change it seems to catch me out as I suddenly find myself walking in the pitch black and struggling to see my dog at all sometimes if it’s properly dark. Well, very reluctantly this year I’ve invested in one of those luminous light up in the dark dog collars, for my dog, not for me, I hasten to add! I’ve always looked at them with a degree of disdain, thinking they look a bit silly. But after nearly losing my dog the other day I decided to give in and buy one. They’re really good, to be fair! Because I can now see my dog when she goes off chasing after something, or decides to play hide and seek behind a bush. And because she often walks ahead of me on the path, and as the path is a bit tricky at times in the dark, she gives me that little steer in the right direction, showing me roughly where I need to be putting my feet next. So, yes, I’m grateful for my glow in the dark dog collar!

It’s a reminder of how important even a tiny bit of light is when everything else around feels dark. Christmas is about light. Whatever you believe or don’t believe about the story of the first Christmas, whatever your take is on the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, and whether that’s part of your Christmas or not, Christmas I suggest for all of us is still about light. Decorations and lighting up things this year seems to be more important than ever.

We light things up somehow as a way of confronting the darkness. I love the Chinese proverb which says ‘It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.’ Christmas at its most basic level is about light coming into darkness, helping us to navigate our way and find where our next step will be.

Christmas will no doubt feel very different for most of us for all sorts of reasons this year. Maybe we’re missing a loved one, maybe we’re not able to celebrate with people in the way we’re used to doing. I’ve heard all sorts of comments from people who have said that they feel Christmas needs to be cancelled this year, or how Christmas isn’t going to be real for them this year. But maybe in some way we all need Christmas this year more than ever – and to discover the simple message of light piercing the darkness that is at the heart of Christmas and which is the same year in year out and doesn’t depend on our feelings, or whether we’re in the Christmas spirit or not. Christmas for me is about a gift – the gift of light, wherever you feel that light comes from, light given to us for times of uncertainty and where the way ahead is unknown.

So, this comes to wish you all the very best this Christmas. Although we won’t be holding our usual services at St Barnabas– our day hospice carol service or our chapel service on Christmas morning – I will be working at the hospice throughout the period and will be holding you all regularly in my prayers.

A reminder too that if you’d like to contact me please feel able to do so by phone, 01903 706300, or email, not least of all if you’d ever like me to light a candle in the chapel on your behalf on a special day.

There’s a candle that burns in our chapel at St Barnabas 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – even when the lights in the chapel are all turned off, it’s burning there – a reminder of constant light shining.

May the light of faith, the light of hope and the light of love be yours this Christmas and into the new year.