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"A cold coming we had of it"

It's cold and frosty all around Britain. Here in Hampshire, the fields are white with frost, and a few flakes of snow are falling. In the 16th and 17th centuries, when Lancelot Andrewes lived, they knew cold. Warmed only by hearth fires, they felt the cold lodge in their bones.

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."

For his poem The Journey of the Magi, TS Eliot borrowed the opening of a 1622 sermon by Andrewes.

We've mentioned Lancelot Andrewes before. Reaching Cambridge as a young man, he became famous overnight as a brilliant scholar. When he became a teacher and bishop, students loved him because he was always willing to stop and listen and talk, no matter how busy he was.

He irritated Queen Elizabeth I with his sermons, hobnobbed with Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Philip Sidney, and in 1598 declined the bishoprics of Ely and Salisbury because of the conditions attached.

He was a humble, faithful, charitable, and principled fellow. There have been many like him in Britain or Britain would have become a desolation and route of wolves.

When James I came to the throne, Lancelot Andrewes became a bishop and then a translator and general editor of the King James Bible.

"In his 1997 novel Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut suggested that Andrewes was 'the greatest writer in the English language', citing as proof the first few verses of the 23rd Psalm" (Wiki).

Each of us is on a journey, which sometimes seems harder in 'the worst time of year'. Life feels pinched, and the eternal light illuminating our lives may look as faint as starlight. Fainter.

But on we go, pausing to figure out where we are going, stopping to help others.

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