Only 300-odd days to go till Christmas! Only a third or so of that to go till TT … (stifle your collective groans, on the back pew there)
Until both of those, we await delivery of the unseemly weather we've been promised. The UK has had our share of snow, it appears, but there's still hope for at least one sledging in 2019.
While winter may have lightness and fun (roaring fires and disintegrating marshmallows), it is also the time we must be ever more vigilant about the welfare of those whose fragility is pronounced. The elderly, sufferers of chronic illness, and children are frequently more susceptible to both drops in temperature and less visible concerns, such as mental health issues and loneliness.
Long nights can extend someone's feelings of loneliness, contrasting with the population boom of summer months when visitors come. Close friends and relatives may disappear over winter, leaving those unable to do so without regular contact. And those who find themselves with no-one to turn to may be confronted with bitter decisions no-one should have to make.
One such winter situation has increased in recent years, returning cities and communities around the world to an invention from medieval times: 'foundling wheels' – now known as Baby Boxes. Desperate cases of children being abandoned at birth, particularly in winter, has led to an increase in the numbers of boxes appearing around the world over the past 20 years, especially in America.
US states ratified a Safe Haven law which would not prosecute parents who felt unable to bring up their child and who handed them over physically to state care. But this still produces stigma and humiliation for the individual. The increase of the boxes, with alarms and temperature controls to provide immediate alert and care for the child inside, are another advance in the hope that a life will be saved.
Naturally, there is concern that prevention is better than cure and that education and support is better than abandonment. Religious beliefs also come into the mix, oftentimes having the unintended consequence of making religious groups look uncaring to the plight of the desperate when, amidst the chaos, sight is lost of the welfare of all the vulnerable parties involved.
But at least something is being done. At least attempts are made to find solutions to make lives better and to save lives. Better those things are tried than to live with the worse consequences of abandoning those who already feel abandoned.
As winter continues, we must ensure we are vigilant to the needs of those around us: not expecting others to pick things up if there are warning signs and wait for something to happen by someone else's work. But to instead be swift, be with, and befriend those in need.
It is often said that no-one should be lonely at Christmastime. But no-one should be lonely at any time. So if we, as the Church, take seriously God's call to share the love and care of the Kingdom by being with the lonely and abandoned, may we never abandon that call.