Newfoundland Nativity

Last week when I walked into my office I found a package on my desk.

All photos: Diane Renault

All photos: Diane Renault

It looked like a perfect container for some good, old-fashioned Christmas home baking—a gift for the Moderator from someone who knew he was missing all the shortbread that in previous years he would have been sampling at his home congregation.

Instead, when I opened it, there was this most amazing gift from Stephanie McClellan, a long-ago friend harking back to Vancouver days when we were both involved in youth and young adult ministries. Now the Rev. Steph is the minister at St. Anthony United in Newfoundland. And she had sent me a “nativity in context.” Here’s what she said:

When I learned this new art, I made the first set for you: “Nativity in context.” An Inuit Mary and Joseph in their anoraks, made from wool sheared from sheep in my pastoral charge, carded and dyed and then crafted by me using needle felting.

nativity photo2The figures are beautiful—so soft and such gentle colours. As Steph writes, “The rainbow wool certainly inspired the gift set for many reasons of faithfulness and promise, but fit the context beautifully because I have seen the northern lights dance those colours into existence during my first couple of years here while driving through Terra Nova National Park.”

And here they are now, nestling in my hands, as light as a chickadee, a wisp of the Spirit, Joseph in one palm, Mary and baby Jesus in the other.

nativity photo3I was reminded of William Kurelek’s work in A Northern Nativity, his paintings of nativity scenes from all across our country, how he helped us recognize how Christ keeps being born, appearing where we are, in our times and places. The 15th-century mystic, Meister Eckhart, expressed something very similar: “What good is it to me, if the son of God was born to Mary 1,400 years ago but is not born in my person and in my culture and in my time?” Of course an Inuit Joseph and Mary and Jesus.

nativity photo4I am so grateful for friends, for their art and their wisdom and their faithfulness.