6th December is Saint Nicholas’ Day in some European countries, where children dress up as vicars and other church staff, collect money and presents, and deliver them to others who might not get presents otherwise. Those children who do the hard work often get a gift themselves! It’s a day to celebrate the real-life Father Christmas who helped lots of people out throughout his lifetime 1800 years ago!
Today, we’ve asked our own Reverend Nikolaj for his thoughts at this time.
The Surprising Beauty of Christmas
Last year in November – my first November in Rose Hill – I was surprised one day, as I turned the corner of Lenthall Road, to see the Norman tower of St Mary’s Church right in front of me, the leaves of the now naked trees having previously obscured it from view. There it was, right next to the row of 1950s council houses.
I should have known, of course, since I work at St Mary’s and before the lockdown I used to walk down there daily. It reminded me that God and everything God represents – beauty and love – has a way of showing up when we least expect it, in the midst of everyday life.
Over 20 centuries ago, on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, a young, poor, unmarried, heavily pregnant woman was forced to make her way to her fiancé’s ancestral hometown in the opposite end of her country, where she would end up having to give birth without even the dignity of a private room.
She had to go through all this trouble, so the Bible tells us, because a powerful man a thousand miles away had decided this was the best way to work out just how many people owed tax to him. Yet somehow even today we number our years from the birth of this peasant boy, Jesus of Nazareth.
When the wise men followed the star from the east to find the new-born king, they first went to the local centre of power, Jerusalem, expecting to find a prince in a castle. Yet he was not to be found there but in the village of Bethlehem. He spent his first night not in a royal cradle but in an animal’s feeding trough. When Christians call this boy the Son of God, we shouldn’t be surprised that God and his goodness shows up in other unexpected places as well.
In this year of pandemic and lockdown, I wonder where you have seen divine beauty, perhaps in the midst of suffering or anxiety or loneliness. As we go through the darkness of winter and wait for the longer, brighter days of spring to follow, let us all remember to hold on to those momentary blessings to lead us through it all.
Curate of Rose Hill, Donnington, and Iffley