My family has a thing for hedgehogs. Unfortunately, you may be more likely to see one run over at the side of the road these days than curled up like the fella in the picture but I’m prepared to bet that half the people reading this agree with me that they can be very cute. Their snuffly little noses, timid walking style, dens made from piles of leaves in the back corner in the garden away from disturbances and so much more. Even the prickles aren’t too bad if you have a good pair of thick gloves on. As I say, it’s a thing.
Growing up I didn’t think much about hedgehogs, other than the annual warning in late October that hedgehogs can crawl into the middle of a bonfire once it has been prepared, so you should always check for little hogs before lighting it. However, we had a couple of them stay in our garden last winter and that got me thinking. Hedgehogs spend the autumn stocking up on food when there are plenty of beetles and worms about so that they have enough energy to last them through the cold season. They then burrow down into their little leaf dens and hibernate for the majority of the next few months to get them through the winter, until they can emerge into the sun in springtime and go about their business.
I saw one which had clearly not got the idea of hibernation whilst on a walk this week. It doesn’t sound like a bad deal when you think about it – eat loads of food in late autumn, curl up under a duvet and blankets, or leaves if you want the truly authentic experience, and wait out till the spring with its promise of vaccines and, whisper it very quietly, seeing friends again. I would guess that most of you would take that if offered it.
But, and it is really quite a significant but, we are not hedgehogs. Hedgehogs may, in their own way, hope for nothing more than the feeling of sun on their spines, but we have a much deeper and more profound hope. We are not meant to withdraw from each other and just ‘get through’ the next few months, tempting though it may be. Again and again, the Bible speaks of hope. It doesn’t tell us to hope in the future, to hope in friends and fun and vaccines. As the psalmist says, ‘now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you‘. Our hope in God is meant to be more foundational than a looking forward to, but a grounding to our every day, which in turn fuels our daily activities. Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica, praising their ‘endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ’. I don’t know about you, but I find myself precisely in need of this endurance at the moment. Let us hope once again in Jesus, and trust that this hope will produce in us endurance to make it through the winter.