The Slow Watches

The days are busy, full of coming and going, but they are also short, darkness falls earlier each day, but it is not the darkness of my childhood days. Down the lane of my birth, the gas lamps were widely spaced and only one side of the lane was lit, but there again the few houses were only set on one side of the lane the opposite side was bordered by a steep bank and rough fields. My word, the lane was steep, my little legs sometimes wondered if they would ever reach the top, and snowfalls meant we were snowbound; whilst ice and frost on the pavement meant you reached the bottom quicker than expected.

What really sticks in my mind about those dark, winter nights are the starry skies. In the absence of light pollution the still, silent stars were thrilling. So much so that I wanted to know their names and all I could about them. When I became older, I became the owner of two telescopes, a refractor and a reflector – I still have them – but more, and more housing developments, and glows from motorways etc mean that the stars have lost their glory … Light pollution they call it.

Down through the years I have been questioned many times, by many kinds if people on how it is possible to have a love of the stars, to know them by name and at the same believe that God created them. I can’t really answer that but I don’t have any difficulties, never have done. I am sure that God knows all their names too.

Yes, I know everything is so vast, there are galaxies beyond number, let alone stars; there is so much, very much more knowledge about the cosmos gained since I was a little girl of 4 or 5, a teenager and a young woman learning the math and how to draw a planetary orbit, make my own star charts, but still it seems to me that the Maker of the stars looks over my shoulder and takes an interest in what I am doing, what I am learning now. In just the same friendly way He was with us a little while ago as we practised carols for the Christmas Service.

John was with us too, born in the village he emigrated to Australia many years ago, but comes over to visit around this time, and to sit in the choir stalls where he sat as a little boy. It was John, who reminded me of the way people used to make sure, if they heard on the wireless that snow was coming, to leave the entry door open because if the snow came and piled up against it folk were stuck. No one ever went into the house by the front door, front doors were only opened when a coffin was carried out. John is older than I, but born like me into an old fashioned world which has changed so rapidly, in so very short a time. Nothing stands still, but these dark, still (yes the echo of the stillness is still there underneath the traffic’s hum) Advent Nights are still times of waiting, if we have a power cut tonight the stars would suddenly shine out.

Thy kingdom come! on bended knee
The passing ages pray;
And faithful souls have yearned to see
On earth that kingdom’s day.

But the slow watches of the night
Not less to God belong;
And for the everlasting right
The silent stars are strong.

And lo, already on the hills
The flags of dawn appear;
Gird up your loins, ye prophet souls,
Proclaim the day is near.

The day in whose clear shining light
All wrong shall stand revealed,
When justice shall be throned in might,
And every hurt be healed.

When knowledge, hand in hand with peace,
Shall walk the earth abroad;
The day of perfect righteousness,
The promised day of God.

(words by Frederick L. Hosmer (1891)


I love this painting, if you look very closely over the head of Jesus you can see a star, the artist Holman Hunt, painted in the planet Venus (the evening and the morning star). Now Jesus is the Morning Star and I look for His coming. However rapid the advances in science, however great the changes, deep down things, the earth is still waiting for ‘the day when knowledge, hand in hand with peace, shall walk the earth abroad.’

Jesus also is standing at the front door and waiting.

Who will let Him in?
The promised day of perfect righteousness cannot happen until we do this.

3 thoughts on “The Slow Watches

    1. Not wonderful, I kind of think out loud. When you notice my thoughts are getting jumbly please feel free to say. We formed a circle around the church today all holding our lighted Christingles and Singing Shine Jesus Shine, from the youngest to the oldest, we were wrapped in the kind of glow that comes through being warmed through from the inside- out, from the place that Jesus makes His Home. From my heart to yours – His joy today!🎄

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