Fingers wet from the spilt juice of oranges, and encrusted with gummie bear sugar, I return from the annual Christingle making morning, thinking about sweetness and sharpness, light and dark and the mixed up sentiments of Christmas.
The front page of the newspaper did for me this morning; somebody's beautiful daughter and her grandmother - one of those photos you proudly display at home on the mantlepiece, never dreaming it'll be seen by thousands - illustrate the news that 6 people died in a freak pedestrian accident as a Glasgow bin lorry went out of control the week before Christmas.
For Ministers there's always a heightened awareness of the piercing sorrow of Christmas, the one Mary, and all mothers, know - the bringing to birth of both the greatest gift and the greatest potential for personal sadness. There's always that pre Christmas phone call from the Undertaker that is particularly dreaded. I came straight from a funeral visit to lead an enormous Christingle service one year and it was one of the hardest things.
That's why this afternoon in church, the Christingle light will be brightest when the lights go out. It's in the darkness that the light is seen most fully. Because, like the magi's offering to the child who embodies 'the hopes and fears of all the years', midwinter Christmas is always both dark and bright:
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in a stone cold tomb.
Glorious now, behold him arise,
King and God and sacrifice.
Heaven sings, Alleluia!
Alleluia! the earth replies.
(from We Three Kings).