Without doubt it has been the most spectacular of autumns. The vivid hues and variegated colours of the shrubs and trees as they prepared to shed their leaves in our gardens and in the countryside has been a thing of great beauty. Botanists have been delighted to offer the scientific reason for this display and have said that the brighter and milder autumn weather is responsible. As shrubs and trees move to protect themselves against colder weather to come, they form a barrier between their branches and leaves. However, due to the brighter and milder weather, leaves have continued to produce sugars and as these could not be transferred to the plat itself, they instead produced the richer spectrum of colours which have graced our late October and November. However, gardeners and council workers alike are now looking forward to the final fall of leaves so that a massive clean-up can be done ahead of winter. In particular, fallen leaves on wet roads can lead to very hazardous driving conditions indeed.
As beautiful as nature can be, it can also be very cruel. Typhoon Haiyan caused massive devastation in the Philippines on the weekend of 8th – 10th November leading to widespread loss of live, destruction of homes and livelihoods. Even as we approach the end of November, a final death toll has not been confirmed but official figures currently stand at 5,209 with 4,919 of these occurring in the province of East Visayas alone. As an example of the intensity of this weather phenomenon, over 11 inches (almost (282 mm) of rain fell in Surigao city, much of which fell in under 12 hours. At Tacloban Airport, the terminal building was destroyed by a 17ft (5.2m) storm surge which reached the height of its second floor. For both victims and survivors, it must have been the most terrifying of experiences and as the clean-up operation continues, the assistance of the world community is urgently needed. To date, I have received requests for financial donations from 16 different agencies and I find this most alarming. Perhaps now is not the right time to hold this debate, but surely there must be a more efficient way to provide aid rather than having 16 different agencies involved, each with their own infrastructural and administrational overheads? In any event, my personal decision is to support the work of bishops’ Appeal who provide much needed resources directly to Christian Aid and Tearfund, both of which were already working on the ground in that area.
As we head in the short penitential season of Advent, we are again provided with the opportunity to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christmas. Unfortunately, the secular world around us only encourages us to prepare physically with both advertising media and retail outlets clamouring for our attention. However, if we want to experience the fullness of Christmas, we need to achieve that elusive balance between spiritual and physical preparation. Let us this Advent take some time out to “be still in the presence of the Lord”. Let us also remember those less fortunate than ourselves and ensure that no one is left feeling worthless, excluded, lonely or isolated this Christmas.
May I take this opportunity on behalf of my family and myself to wish parishioners, families and friends a very Happy, Holy and Peaceful Christmas and a Blessed and Prosperous New Year.
With every blessing,
Rev. John Tanner, Tel: 289 3154 or 086 302 1376.