Rector’s Letters

December 2021

To my dearly loved sisters and brothers in Christ of the Parish of Rawdon;

I write to you this 6th day of December after having emptied almond cookies, chocolates, and marzipan from my shoe, which was mysteriously found in front of my hearth. In my household, St. Nicholas day – the 6th of December – is when St. Nick comes to leave treats for us to enjoy and share, leaving the Feast of Christmas solely for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus, and for the adoration of Him by Mary and Joseph, by shepherds, and Angels, and for the sharing of gifts and glad tidings of good joy among family and friend. My family has drawn a line between St. Nick and Christmas for more than 30 years in an attempt to separate and celebrate two distinct feasts. St. Nicholas was an important saint known for his gift giving; but attaching his feast day to the Feast Day of the birth of Our Lord serves to diminish the real human work of St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, and to similarly diminish the glory of the birth of He who was born to be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6]. Drawing a line is easy. Doing it with gentleness, compassion, kindness, and love is harder. 

The narrative of the Birth of Christ, as read in chapter 2 of the Gospel of St. Luke, is a narrative which most children in Canada and the US now learn by watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. The visit of the Magi several days later, as referenced in the 2nd chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, is known to most of our contemporary world only as a vague reference in the carol “We Three Kings”, which is probably better known as Christmas music in a shopping centre rather than as a hymn sung in church at the celebration of the Epiphany of our Lord on the 6th of January. 

The coming of the Christ Child to humanity when Cyrenius was governor of Syria was like a spark among stubble [Wisdom 3:7]; like lighting a match in a fireplace which has been stacked with dry kindling. Just as a flame appears to leap from match to kindling, transforming cedar, pine, and balsam to fragrant flame; so did Christ leap into human flesh and into human society to transform us into men and women fit to dwell in the Kingdom of God. Jesus came to us like fuller’s soap, like a refiner’s fire [Malachi 3: 2] to redeem our hearts and minds and our spirits – not with chastisement or with judgment, but with gentle, holy, and life-giving love. God had presented himself to Israel when He led them from Egypt into the wilderness and in time to the Jordan; 2 leading them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; but that revelation of God to His people served to terrify all but Moses, the only person to whom God revealed his Divine Presence. The coming of God as a child was a revelation of the face of God which was new and unexpected – unexpected despite having been foretold by Isaiah [Isaiah7:14]. This presence of God was different – it was human and divine; it came in the flesh of a man who ate and drank with outcasts and sinners, who did manual labour, who went to synagogue and studied the Torah, who fished for both men and for fish, who went to the desert to suffer hunger and temptation – all that he might ‘live and die as one of us’, as says the Eucharistic liturgy. 

Christmas – the Christ Mass – is about just this: the feast of the coming of the long-expected, but still unexpected gift of God in human form, coming to us in real flesh and real blood that he might live and die like us, that we might find it easier to embrace God as a babe-in-arms, or as a boy in a temple, or as a fisherman, or as a preacher who fed multitudes, than we could embrace the Face of God as seen in the towers of flame or smoke. This Christmas, when you embrace family and friend, be they young or old, be the embrace a proper hug or a covid socially-distanced fist or elbow bump, look at the person you are embracing; think of them as a member of the Living Church, carrying the inheritance of God’s Kingdom in their heart and the knowledge of God’s Son in their soul, with the certainty of the Joy that awaits them when His Kingdom is brought into fullness.

Many blessings, and much love, to you who see and know and believe.

Fr. Rodney Clark+,
Priest in Charge of Rawdon