You know what it’s like. You suddenly wake up about 3.0 or 4.0 am with an urge to use the toilet. But it’s a very cold night and you don’t want to get out in the cold, especially if, like me, you don’t wear any pyjama top or T-Shirt. It’s cosy and warm in the bed. Perhaps you can drift off back to sleep? Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

So you lay there a bit longer and then you make the decision that you won’t rest until you attend to business. So you get out, hoping you don’t wake up too much and will quickly doze off when you get back in. That’s what happened to me the other night on one of the coldest nights we have had for a long time.  Fortunately, I haven’t reached that point in life where nocturnal rising is a common occurrence. It was 3.33 am. I crept out, hoping I didn’t disturb my wife and, having a love for the night sky, drew the curtains slightly apart to see what was on display. There was only one street lamp on (wish they would turn them off sometimes after midnight) yet despite that the sky looked deep and dark with an inky blackness that you only seem to get on a crisp Winter’s night. The air was clear and as I looked to the south west I saw it.

Rising above the neighbouring trees was the most majestic sight that always thrills me. It was the constellation of Orion, The Hunter. The four main stars making its rectangular shape sparkled with a great  brilliance containing the three stars forming the diagonal line called Orion’s Belt as you can see in the photo above (which does not do it complete justice). Dangling down from the belt was the more murky cloud of gas and stars which contain the nebula, a birthplace for other worlds.

I had observed this many times before but that night it seemed to be more brilliant, more powerful, more beautiful than I had ever seen it. In a world that some think is getting darker by the day It was like a sentinel that said don’t give up on this world yet, it’s still full of beautiful things. The universe, the whole of creation, is there for us to explore and love. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole. According to the Gestalt school of philosophy, while each of the individual parts have meaning on their own, taken together, the meaning may change.  I just know that this world is not going to end anytime soon, probably not for thousands and thousands of years. Every generation thinks the end of days is going to be in their lifetime but they are always wrong! The New Testament tells us that it will come ‘Like a thief in the night’ and that nobody knows the date it will happen so why people waste time trying to predict it beats me. When it comes to the end of the world some people may think I’m apathetic… I don’t care.

So, in this Advent season, let it be a season of hope. The three stars in Orion, pictured below, shone so fiercely the other night that they seemed to me to be symbols of the Magi that gave the three gifts that first Christmas. I found something I wasn’t even looking for when I got up that cold very early morning. Something joyous out of the blackness.  It just goes to demonstrate what I have always said…that there are just as many unexpected joys as sorrows.



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