Whilst writing this month’s message I looked from the study window and observed how bleak the gardens are looking, but in the midst of this bleakness I noticed a small group of yellow crocuses emerging from the ground indicating new life and the promise of spring. This image brought to mind how the emergence of spring can seem to be a frantic explosion of colour, wildlife and new life surrounding us.
In both of Lewis Carroll’s adaptations of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking-Glass’, we encounter many interesting characters. One that seems to emerge with the characteristics of spring is the “Mad March Hare”. Hares are normally nocturnal and shy animals. However, spring brings a change of behaviour, where exuberance erupts into chasing one another around the field in broad daylight, characteristic boxing with one another. Maybe it was this behaviour that drew Lewis Carroll to illustrating this character in the way he did! In a new publication called “The Lost Rhymes of Wonderland” which is based upon the original manuscript, but in a poetic form, it depicts the Hare not as a jittering witness for the trial of the “Knave of hearts” but as counsel for the defence and prosecutor in turn. It is said, that in his opening statement to the court he vindicates the accused, before turning his accusing eye upon the court itself.
As we gather during this period of self-examination and self-denial, there is much that resonates from these illustrations. We consider Jesus’s arrival at the river Jordan; in an unpresuming way and baptised… “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil” Luke 1:12a. The river and the desert are images that touch the depth of our humanity. Water is the source of life that we all require for our survival and the desert, a place of silence and solitude that forces us to look deeply into reality.
Jesus was fully aware of both terrains. He experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in his baptism that immediately challenged him. We also, through our own baptism, are called to share this new given life to others. The temptation is to keep it for ourselves, but as disciples we are to be channels of God’s life for others. In the same way deserts can be a place where we face our trials and ordeals of life. It can easily cause us to be tempted to view life from a negative perspective. During our times of trial, our greatest need is the gift of the Holy Spirit which also sustained Jesus during his trials.