This message was printed in the Christmas bulletin at St. Augustine Parish in Saskatoon, where I became pastor on Dec. 4, 2021.
Exactly one month before the beginning of my appointment as pastor of this beautiful parish of St. Augustine in Saskatoon, I was lying awake in the middle of the night in my room at the cathedral. I noticed it was unusually bright outside — so much so that I wondered if an outside light had accidentally been left on. I got up to look and noticed that no, I had not left on an exterior light. Rather, God did.
What was happening was one of the most incredible displays of the aurora borealis, the northern lights, that I’ve seen in over twenty years. I immediately grabbed my camera and tripod, got dressed to go outside, and marvelled for the next hour at the dynamic motion of the sky. What was most amazing to me is how bright everything was, even within the city limits where the light pollution tends to overwhelm the night sky. Not only that, but the aurora was visible above and even to the south, where they are almost always viewed from our latitude only in the northerly direction.
So I snapped some photos, including the one pictured above, considering myself very blessed to be able to witness what I was seeing. However, I should note that the photo is a bit different than what was seen with the naked eye. This particular image is the result of the camera, fixed upon a tripod, looking upon the sky for a full 10 seconds. The sensor in the camera is able to take in all the light and combine all the data into for more detail than what can be seen simply with our eyes.
On that first Christmas night we see something similar happening. The skies manifest that a tremendous Beauty has encountered humanity in a way that changes the fabric of everything. The star points the way, and the very heavens open up with angels proclaiming “good news of great joy for all the people,” as they sing out their refrain of “Glory to God in the highest!”
In response the shepherds head to Bethlehem. They are attentive, and, along with Mary and Joseph, they ponder the Light who has been born into the world. What incredible models they are for us.
This time of year is busy. It can often be complex — perhaps more so now than it has been in recent memory. But the Light has been born. The Light has chosen to take on our messy humanity. The Light has become one with us to lift a people in darkness into glory.
Let’s look to the example of the shepherds, which is analogous to the example of my camera taking photos of the night sky: take at least a few moments in the stillness to be attentive. Be attentive to the fact that God loves you so much that he didn’t hold back. Be attentive to the truth that our Lord loves you so dearly that he was born into complete vulnerability and messiness and even darkness in order to bring his marvellous light. The God of the universe — the Creator of all that is, including the northern lights — has emptied himself is such a way that he couldn’t even hold up his own head. The Creator of the Cosmos needed his diapers changed. The God of the heavens who feeds us was placed into a feeding trough.
Jesus, our God, chose to enter the mess, even the darkness, to bring light.
What unfathomable love he has for you and me, by name! Glory to God in the highest! Let us be attentive.
Christmas blessings to you all,
Fr. Darryl Millette