Good morning. The moments following an explosion or other great catastrophe are often marked by a stunned silence, broken only by the wailing of alarm bells. Twenty five years ago today, two survivors of the horrendous train crash at Clapham Junction spoke independently of distinctly hearing the song of a blackbird before the chaos and turmoil of the rescue.
The scene of this terrible tragedy is marked by a memorial on the top of the bank leading down to the track. It reads: "For those who lost their lives in the Clapham Rail Disaster on 12 December 1988. Those who were injured, their families and friends, and all who helped and cared at the time and afterwards".
Pupils from a nearby school saw the accident and they guided many of the injured along the embankment for treatment at the school. In Parliament the next day, Margaret Thatcher thanked the pupils whom, she said,"... saw what was happening and who were thoughtful and swift in their reactions. They are a credit to the young people of this country".
The name of that school was Emanuel. It is a name which means "God is with us". The singing of the blackbird gave strange comfort and peace to some of the injured. The saving actions of the pupils brought extraordinary comfort too. During these December days of Advent, the words of the prophet Isaiah speak powerfully of a God who gives comfort and hope. They tell of a God who is the Morning Star, who is with us in dark times as well as light. He is Emanuel. He is God with us.
As the new day dawns,
We give thanks for the first glimmers of light
Which remind us of your coming, 0 Christ.
May your light
Overcome whatever darkness
Blights our lives. Amen.