It’s that time of year when many of us will be heading off for a summer holiday. What do you like when you go on holiday? Beaches or mountains? Something exotic or the comfortingly familiar? Full-on activity or simply quiet relaxation? Our family likes to get outside into the natural world and enjoy some dramatic scenery. So this year we went to Pembrokeshire, not far from St David's – somewhere that was new to us.
While we were there we got to explore some of the beautiful Pembrokeshire coastline. We walked parts of the coastal path and took a boat ride to see the coast from a different point of view. There is nothing quite like rugged cliffs, open sea and a wide expanse of sky to make you feel small. Not just small, but also, paradoxically, deeply connected.
We also had the opportunity to visit St David's Cathedral – a beautiful church in a spectacular setting. As well as enjoying the cathedral itself there was the added bonus of a display of art work.
Towards the rear of the cathedral was a display of almost thirty oil paintings by the Welsh artist Jeremy Thomas (www.jeremythomasart.co.uk). Each painting depicts a scene from the life of Jesus, from the nativity through to the ascension. Together they are part of a four year project to tell the story of Jesus Christ. A project the artist has called ‘The Human One’.
What struck me most about the paintings was how Jesus was often a very small figure placed in a large dramatic landscape. As a Christian it can be very easy to forget the essential smallness of Jesus’ life. He lived such a long time ago amidst the drama of the Roman Empire. His life was short and lived out in a small, troublesome corner of the world. In a teaching ministry that lasted only three years he profoundly touched many lives and caused such a stir that the religious authorities conspired with the empire to have him killed. Within just a few decades those who knew him had spread the Good News of Jesus into Africa and Asia as well as Europe.
Whether or not you get to travel this summer, I hope you have the opportunity to get a break from the usual routines of life, experience your life in a different way for at least a few days and perhaps get in touch afresh with your own humanness. Holidays can not only refresh us but give us a fresh perspective on ourselves and our own lives. They can leave us feeling more deeply connected to creation or to culture, to friends and family. They can help to ground us again in the important things of life.
Good holidays are holy days, like Jesus they can bring us closer to the things of ultimate significance that too often get lost in the noise of everyday life.