Everyone knows all about Christmas Eve. Its “chestnuts roasting over a blazing fire.” “Tiny tots all snug in their beds while visions of sugar plums dance in their heads…”. It is singing “Silent night, holy night” while lighting candles. It’s the spirit of the season. It is a scene vividly painted by artists throughout the ages. The image of a cherubic Jesus laying in a manger. Mary is gazing-almost absent mindedly at her son. The shepherds look like men who are either disreputable or have seen something so incredible that they can’t find words for it. Then there are three wise men with their gifts. It’s all so familiar.
What if we could see things as if for the first time? It is so hard to do. We are nostalgic for our comforting and comfortable images.
But tonight, we have a chance to see the events in a new way. Nativity takes place not in some distant place in the Middle East but here in Canada. The artist is William Kurelek. He grew up in Saskatchewan. He was a deeply religious man. He had many visions of the world. Some of them were quite disturbing. Some were filled with an almost beatific sense of God’s presence.
Tonight we will celebrate Kurelek’s art. If all goes well , we will deepen our celebration of the Nativity of the Son of God. The pictures come from his book, A Northern Nativity . All the are paintings are his.
The opening inscription reads: If it happened here…as it happened there….If it happened now as it happened then….Who would have seen the miracle?…Who would have brought the gifts?…Who would have taken them in?
The paintings take place in the midst of the great depression. A young couple with their newborn baby wander all over Canada to find work. This couple is different-each has a small inconspicuous halo over their heads. The halo is for us to see but most don’t see them at all. The “word became flesh” and no one seems to understand it.
The Holy Family crosses Canada in the Arctic, on the Prairies, Ontario,, Quebec, and the Maritimes. Mary and Joseph search for a warm place to stay and look for a meal and hope to find friendly faces. They are us. Ordinary people. They are God in human flesh. Just as we are God’s eyes and ears in this world.
O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him!