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Christmas on the edge: rescue in time of need

By Bishop Gary Gordon

12/17/2014
The following letter was sent to Catholic Missions in Canada last Christmas. It is from Catholic Missions In Canada, Winter 2014 (www.cmic.info), and is reprinted with permission

The great adventure continues with amazing sights under the Northern Lights in the Christmas season. My own adventures and travels are too many to put into one short Christmas letter. However, I will share a dog rescue story as the Christmas story has some four-legged creatures, too. There were cattle lowing, donkeys braying and probably a dog or two at the first Christmas in the manger of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born of Mary.

Merlin, my golden retriever, has added another talent to his resume which is already filled with movie stardom, grizzly bear protection, and loving cats. His new talent surfaced in the summer when he alerted me and the Steiner family, from Fraser Lake, British Columbia, that their lab pup Hatfield was missing. Indeed Merlin was near-panic as he got our attention and moved us toward the edge of the clay cliff, overlooking the Takhini River.

Where is Hatfield? The collective shouting for Hatfield echoed in the Takhini valley. While pausing for a few breaths, between the running and shouting for Hatfield, we heard a lot of panicky whimpers, somehow far off, but near.Christmas in the North

From the bottom of the clay cliff, I spotted the source of the whimper. Yahoo!, it was Hatfield 150 feet up the cliff and 15 feet below the top. Hatfield had gone over the edge and was trapped on a small ledge between the river below and the blue sky above. So cheered on by the barking of Merlin, Ray and I used our many years of B.C. back-country expertise to climb the clay cliff to reach Hatfield’s little perch. Then, without fanfare, we tied a rope, dropped from above by Ray’s wife Theresa, around Hatfield and he was hauled to safety. The cheers of the children could be heard all the way to Whitehorse.

You may ask what does the rescue of a Labrador puppy have to do with a Christmas letter? Nothing really, but it does provide a marvellous little example of the rescue God gives me and you day in and day out by sending his son to rescue us when we are stuck.

Many friends and family have needed a lot of Divine rescue this past year when stuck on some of life’s little ledges of this precarious earthly existence. The Lord Jesus is truly Emmanuel: “God with us.”

So humbly I take the little example of Merlin and remain faithful in prayer and concern for all of you. Indeed Christmas is such a great reminder of God’s precious gift to the world, his only son Jesus.

And so in little ways we imitate God’s attention and love for all the little and great ways that make us a family in God the Father.

I pray that this Christmas season brings you much peace and renewed joy, in carrying Jesus’ saving love to the little ledges where our brothers and sisters often find themselves hanging on, waiting for rescue.

Merry Christmas! — Bishop Gary and Merlin.

Gordon is former Bishop of Whitehorse, now Bishop of Victoria.