I like to grow sunflowers. An elderly neighbour once shared that she had observed a five-year-old me planting sunflower seeds by our front window in a doomed attempt to persuade my mother not to relocate us to Kendal. The move was rather nice in the end, but what happened to those seeds I cannot say. When I moved into my present dwelling, I lifted up some concrete slabs in order to create a border. Mixing new topsoil with manure to a 50:50 ratio resulted in the largest sunflowers I have ever grown, with one disc-floret (the brown circular part from which the yellow petals extend) measuring 48cm across. This year’s were not so magnificent in size, but their colours were pleasing enough.

We humans need sunshine. Not only is it an important source of vitamin D, but it helps us produce a hormone called serotonin, boosting our good moods and general calmness. The Independent newspaper even reports sunshine’s positive effects in reducing the spread of tumours. The problem is that we in the northern hemisphere are entering a long period of extended darkness and grey sky. Some have even acquired large sunlamps in order to compensate for our geography. Personally, I rather like a snug, warmly lit home in autumn and winter. Although I tire of it come January, there’s something agreeable about long, dark evenings with a fire roaring and scented candles flickering.

Spiritually, whether it be summer or winter, or a season in-between, we need Christ’s light. Living and dying without Him is as bleak and murky an existence you will ever have. He is the light of the world, the radiance of the Father’s glory. Living without Him is akin to a man spending a summer’s day lurking in a cave or trapped down a deepest mine. Sunflowers last a season and their heads sometimes disappoint. Of Christ, the Lilly of the Valley, this can never be said:

Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (Eph 5:14)