You might be surprised to learn that at the beginning of every January the earth is at its closest to the sun than at any other time of year. How come it is generally warmer six months later in the year, when we are furthest from the sun? It turns out that the tilt of the earth’s axis has a greater effect on our weather and climate. When it is Winter in Britain, the northern hemisphere is turned away from the sun and we get longer nights than days. In Summer, when our part of the world is turned more towards the sun, we benefit more from its heat and light.
Whether we feel hotter or colder has more to do with whether we are facing the sun (as in daytime) than with how close to the sun we are. Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, reaches over 400 degrees C on its daytime side but below –170 degrees on its night-time side even though it is about a third of the distance to the sun compared to the Earth. In other words, even though it is closer to the sun, Mercury’s night is colder than Earth’s.
As the seasons here progress through January and February, our part of the planet is turning more and more towards the sun. Gradually the days become longer and we might just start to believe that Spring is just around the corner.
I do not want to press the analogy too far, but I think that in our journey of life, our faith, can be experienced in a similar way. There is no physical measurement for how close we are to God, but our hearts are warmed and our minds are enlightened the more we turn towards him.
This idea of turning towards God is behind the word “repentance”. It means seeing and doing things differently by turning away from what is wrong and instead turning towards God. We include repentance in Baptisms (Christenings) when we are asked “Do you turn to Christ? (the perfect image of God)” and “Do you repent (turn away from) your sins?”
I want to suggest that when is seems that God has gone away, it might be that we are looking in the wrong direction. What is more, it may be that some of our darkest and coldest times in faith occur when we are closer to God than we think but, because we have turned away from him, we do not benefit from his presence as much as we might.
I cannot tell you what this looks like for you – we each have our own personal experience of life and of God. It may be that in times of grief we think God has turned away from us and we need the reassurance that God is near even if it does not feel like it at the time. It may be that we get caught up with being busy and we are so preoccupied with our daily lives, that we do not stop long enough to give God a second thought. What do you think? What are the times when you feel more turned away from God? What do you need to do about it?
I shared those thoughts in our Parish magazine and offer them to you for you consideration.
O Lord, let the light of your face shine on us. (Psalm 4 verse 6)