After Christmas all I seemed to notice once the January sales were over, were TV advertisements for summer holidays – often promising warmth and sunshine in foreign climes. Amid the January blues and chills, coughing and spluttering people, I could see why the advertisers were selling their wares, so to speak.

Then amid the neaps and tatties and haggis on sale around the national bard’s birthday I espied a sale of sun cream in the supermarket. There on the end of the aisle in Asda was a display of every kind of sun cream you could desire. There were bottles of cream, spray on versions, and varying types depending on your skin colour. And they ranged in strength or factor depending on where you would be catching the sun’s rays.

Now I regret to say that I have not booked a holiday in the sun or purchased some discounted sun cream. But on one particularly bleak January morning when I was finishing my morning prayers, my prayer book led me to Colossians 1:1, which reads, “In his glorious might may he give you ample strength to meet with fortitude and patience whatever comes; and to give joyful thanks to the Father who has made you fit to share the heritage of God’s people in the realm of light.” (NRSV)

I am sure I have read this passage before but somehow in the darkness of a January morning if fell on me like a bright ray of sun. I carried it around with me in my head for the rest of the day, and to help me remember I created my own little acronym, SPF. Strength, patience, fortitude. Not quite the usual meaning of the acronym SPF – sun protection factor. But in its own way a handy reminder of the fact that whatever weather we face in life, the sunshine, the rain, the sorrows, the joys, the Son promises us his strength to meet with patience and fortitude whatever is waiting around the corner for us.

So, SPF has a new meaning for me and it makes me smile and find inner God-given strength every time I recall it. Strength, patience, fortitude. But I haven’t given up on a bargain in the sun or a discounted can of sun cream factor 50.