Christmas Reflection

Some thoughts as the year passes and Christmas looms

  1. 25th. This year is so good – a Sunday Christmas… almost a whole week between last Sunday and Christmas Eve – so good for ministers/pastors! And, no meetings! Glory to God in the Highest!  Could we look to Sunday-ising Christmas?
  2. Summer heat. Some emperor decreed that we should celebrate the birth of Jesus on 25 December but he failed to take into account the implications for people from the other hemisphere. Silly man!  Actually, I don’t even think he knew there was another hemisphere!
    I quite like the lights and the wrapped up warm idea of a winter Christmas but can’t be bothered going to the other hemisphere to experience it and missing out on summer here!  I also think that some separation of Christmas from summer holidays and school starting would be more helpful for families struggling to pay all the bills. If it wasn’t for strawberries and raspberries I would advocate for a June Christmas celebration in NZ.
    Lynne Barb has offered some thoughtful things about a southern hemisphere Christmas here:
  3. Timing. I feel like I have had the best year of my life – truly, I have had a lot of fun and inspiration – new friendships, writing, poems, tramping, an Australian adventure, my band getting together after 34 years, big exciting developments in our church life, and my daughter Hana getting engaged to our dear friend Will. But I got the timing wrong. I conked out two weeks ago and now I am limping to Christmas.  I have no complaints though – being in a team ministry has made it possible to get through a lot of things, but I’m done.  I hope the stuff for Christmas passes muster for I am drawing very deeply from the well!
    4.  Rest.  Anne and I have holidays starting mid-January, so we are holding the fort until then.  Fortunately, it is usually a slow patch, and there are no meetings scheduled (I wonder what it will be like to have a whole string of evenings off!).  We need the rest, and it looks like it will come to us.  May it also come to you and your loved ones.  Maybe that is the best thing about a summer Christmas, we work it hard until Christmas Day and then the NZ world stops, takes a breath and kicks off its shoes.  So…
    May the barbeque not run out of gas.
    May the car not break down or the tent rip.
    May the phone not ring with sad tidings.
    May you find beautiful spaces to re-create and re-imagine in.
    May the company you keep be light and friendly.
    May the earth not shake, the seas not roar, nor your skin burn.
    May your jandaled feet not blister or crack.

May the cool air in the evenings refresh you.

May the challenges of next year come slowly.

And may the God who graces us in Jesus Christ, so grace you that your cup overflows!

Advent Prayer

Here is a prayer I have prepared for Advent Sunday tomorrow…

It is Advent Sunday – we start the Christian year again
With Advent is the invitation to deeper engagement
What has been said before will be said again,
but with two significant differences:
firstly, the world is not as it was before
– it is better and it is worse, that is the nature of the world;
and secondly, we haven’t been who we are before
– we are always at the edge of growing,
and deepening our engagement with the dynamics of God’s grace at work in us…

so we pray

As the late spring winds blow
and test the hold that the new leaves have on the branches,
so God we invite your spirit-presence into our lives
and the lives of those about us.

God we do not seek you as a comfort-blanket under which we can hide,
no, we invite your turbulent love to sweep over us
and this land, and this world in need.

Stir us, enliven us, engage us,
that in this season of Advent
we will hear again, as if for the first time,
of your invitation to live the transformed life.

You come in Jesus Christ.
We come in response.

You call us to life in all its fullness.
But we confess that we almost always respond in our own way,
from our places of comfort and resistance, and consequently,
with lowered expectations of what your fullness can be.

Forgive us, we pray,
forgive us for the way that we so often hear your call
and so often have our hearts stirred,
but before too long we have resorted to our old habits
and given into our divided loyalties.

We invite your turbulent love to sweep over us.
We invite your Living Word to stop us in our tracks.
We invite your Spirit-presence into the corridors of our resistance
to blow away the dust and cobwebs of our fear-filled patterns of life,
that we might hear the call from the deep
and respond anew with vigour and passion,
to the story of you, O God, living among us full of grace and truth.

And this is God’s word to us… from 2 Corinthians 5:17
“… if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

This is what God pronounces for us.
This is the life that God creates in us.
This is the promise that comes to us today in Jesus Christ.
And God’s Spirit enables us to live into this new creation.

God, hear us as we hear your call
and respond in love as a forgiven and renewed people,
in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

An article I wrote published in the Christchurch Press newspaper today

Race Relations continues to be an issue here in Aotearoa – maybe extent of racial prejudice is not to the scale of what happens in some other countries, but there is a place for ongoing coaching so that what we have achieved doesn’t slip…




Totara Valley

Anne and I received confirmation today that our tender for the Totara Valley Church near Cave/Pleasant Point in Sth Canterbury has been accepted!  We are so very thrilled!  It is our Grand Design project – the building in which we plan to make our home at the time of our retirement in about 14 years.  The church was opened in 1894 and has served the community well.  We intend to preserve it as much as possible while creating a home in it in due course.St Paul's Church Totara Valley

In the meantime we will use the rear 3-room Sunday School buildings as our batch/holiday home and slowly develop the land with trees and whatever it takes to enable us to live as simply as we can on the land.  It is 1hr 50min driving distance from Christchurch – perfect for a few nights away and holidays!
It is virtually a bare-land project which suits us just fine.  We have a bed of fruit trees that will be transplanted next winter.
Our Christmas present to each other was bought today as a sign of our ‘Yippee!’ and intentions…

our Christmas gift to each other

look closely to see our Christmas gift to each other

It seems very strange mapping so clearly our future plans – great fun as well!

wise women also came

The following reflection by the talented Jan Richardson [] is well worth reflecting on as we ponder the meaning of Christmas.  There are always stories behind the written stories that are there for the telling.  They are, of course, speculative – but like this one, the speculations are interesting and encouraging.  This one in particular hints at the many different ways that space was made for the Christ-child.

Wise Women Also Came – Jan Richardson
Wise women also came.
The fire burned
in their wombs
long before they saw
the flaming star
in the sky.
They walked in shadows,
trusting the path
would open
under the light of the moon.

Wise women also came,
seeking no directions,
no permission
from any king.
They came
by their own authority,
their own desire,
their own longing.
They came in quiet,
spreading no rumors,
sparking no fears
to lead
to innocents’ slaughter,
to their sister Rachel’s
inconsolable lamentations.

Wise women also came,
and they brought
useful gifts:
water for labor’s washing,
fire for warm illumination,
a blanket for swaddling.

Wise women also came,
at least three of them,
holding Mary in the labor,
crying out with her
in the birth pangs,
breathing ancient blessings
into her ear.

Wise women also came,
and they went,
as wise women always do,
home a different way.

Christmas Letter

Grandson Oli today

Each year we scramble together some words… here are some excerpts:
In so many ways our year has been defined by the shaking of the earth.  What we thought was bad after September last year escalated with the February quake – we had thought we had got off lightly with no fatalities but that wasn’t the case this year. It is the way of things that the world moves on but this Christmas will be so sad for so many.  We have had over 16,000 quakes now – 25 in the last week.  Fortunately we rarely notice them now – anything under 3.5 seems to miss our worn down body radars!  Our St Stephen’s Church building is badly broken and probably will not make it.  Since February we have been doing everything in our church hall – in so many ways it has been the best of things.  The congregation has found a yet deeper way of being together in the intimacy of the hall.  Our fortnightly Gathering breakfast thing with young families has taken off a bit and the hall also works for them.  But the flipside has been some scaling down of the Community Centre because of the lack of space.  That should change again in the next year or two.

A real highlight this year has been a supermarket voucher drop into one of the lesser known ‘red zone’ parts of the city where a whole neighbourhood is being relocated.  Over $85,000 was raised from far and wide which enabled three west city churches St Stephen’s, St Giles, & St Mark’s to walk out hundreds of $200 vouchers and give them to people as an act of solidarity.  The response from all concerned was overwhelmingly lovely – the ‘givers’ feel that they were the ‘receivers’ – and there were many tears and hugs.  One couple we got to know through this project should be on TV One News Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Through this most challenging year there have been many phone calls and emails from friends and we are very grateful for your support.  We are hoping for a quieter 2012 – but who knows?!
[since writing this we have had 2 quakes, 5.8 & 6.0… blimey, so disappointing!]

Christmas in Daphne’s room

Daphne is a friend of ours who decorates her rest home room with Christmas things – she is known as ‘the Christmas Lady’ and her room is a place where people gravitate to for a look.
She is a bright, positive and cheerful woman with a gentle faithful spirit.
She lets a light or two shine at Christmas in particular and brings good cheer to those around her.
I guess you could call it a ministry of Christmas!

creative christmas cones

Over on the eastside on some almost totally abandoned streets some of the neighbours have set out to bring some Christmas cheer to a rather bleak situation.  The road cones have been dressed up in Christmas themes and even a street-side porta-loo has been decorated and named ‘Santa’s grotto’.  Well done to these creative and resilient souls!!!
The next image was taken by Heather Watson…

The Watson family's contribution to the streetscape