What is there that is good about February? Well, it is the shortest month, so we do get through it quickly.
It seems a long time since the excitement and joy of Christmas, we have probably forgotten our New Year resolutions, and the summer holidays are months away. As the phrase ‘February fill-dyke’ reminds us, the weather is often bad and the whole country can be brought to a halt by snow. The days are short, visitor attractions are closed, and footpaths are ankle deep in mud. It is easy to get depressed in February.
Yet in February the length of daylight increases more than in any other month. The delicate white flowers of the snowdrop appear even in the snow, we can start looking for the bright yellow of the crocus, and daffodils are well advanced. February 14th is the day when ‘A young man’s fancy’ (and presumably a young woman’s fancy) ‘lightly turns to thoughts of love’, and I have been told that it is also the day when the birds start to think about building their nests.
We live in a tumultuous and frightening world with black clouds all around. But history tells us that it’s happened before. The village of Eyam on our doorstep reminds us of the devastation of the plague, and last year’s anniversaries emphasised the horrors of the 1914-18 war.
At the end of the 1939-45 war our country was on its knees, with massive debts, worn out infrastructure, most food rationed and even common necessities like soap in short supply. Many buildings were left in ruins after bombing, but I still remember how almost overnight those bombed sites were transformed by the flowers of rose bay willow herb. It was an uplifting sight. The devastation had gone.
2000 years ago a baby called Jesus was born in squalid conditions in a country ruled by a foreign power and to a couple displaced from their home. Soon that family had to flee for their lives for fear the baby would be killed. 30 years later Jesus was savagely executed by crucifixion, reviled by the crowds and deserted by many of his followers. His mission seemed a complete failure. Yet his resurrection heralded a complete transformation as his example and teaching spread out to all the world.
So perhaps in February as we see the first sign of spring, it is a good month to remember one of the greatest of Christian virtues, the virtue of Hope.