LETTER FROM THE MINISTER
Growing up, one of my favourite times of the year was Christmas.
Unlike most of my friends, we, a family of Presbyterian Ministers, did
not really celebrate any of the traditional festivals that South
Koreans enjoyed. The reason being that it was seen as ‘against the
teaching of the scripture’. And so Christmas was our traditional
celebration, a day when we could actually laugh about things, and
enjoy the festivities. My memory of Christmas always starts with the
Christmas Eve Carolling from around midnight until the early hours. I
remember singing through the dark streets of the parish with 15-20
young people my age and some older, then coming back to the church
where the women’s fellowship prepared a lovely hot soup and
sweets. Some stayed on sleeping in youth rooms and some went home
only to come back a few hours later to the church for a combined
Christmas service of all different parts of the church. For my whole
life until I was 17 or 18, this is my memory of Christmas.
I came to New Zealand when I was 18 and since then the celebration
of Christmas has been completely different. For a start, it is no
longer a cold wintery sometimes white Christmas. Churches here are
generally in holiday mode. Many churches are visited by out of town
visitors, and those who still value celebrating Christmas in the church
although not regular attendees of the church. This is also a time
many of the regular members of the church travel out of town.
Decorations overwhelm us in the shopping malls. Christmas dinner
and the joys and stress of getting together as a family take much
more space in our hearts than anything else.
So to talk of what Christmas is really about seems to be an
“interruption” :that it is or it was the time for preparing our hearts
for re-committing ourselves to the story of God’s salvation through
His Son Jesus Christ.
I think this is too much of an absurdity for us to brush it off and
say… “that is what we do here.” I am almost at a loss as to what it is
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that I should do, as the call to reform gets louder as the day of
Christ’s birth gets closer and closer.
All the gospel stories of the season of Advent suggest we should
remember that Christmas is not all about sparkles and fun, though
that is also important. We all know it is more and much more than
that… This might sound too serious but I think this season is fun
because of its seriousness. It is the most important time of our
Christian faith, because of its annoying interruption to our desire for
enjoyment and relaxation. Christ incarnated was ‘a loud bang’ for
our world’s deafened ears and cold hearts. It was certainly the ‘Big
Bang’ for all things to find their place and order and the world come
John 1 describes it . “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word
was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the
beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing
was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the
light of men. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among
us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came
from the Father, full of Grace.” (John 1-3, 14)
For me my childhood and adulthood celebration of Christmas are
Look how Christmas was at the heart of our history as a church in
Aotearoa. Back to 1814 the missionary Samuel Marsden preached his
first sermon in the Bay of Islands, saying ‘Behold, I bring good tidings
of great joy.”
This story shapes our thinking around faith, history and heritage. Our
past informs our present and helps us in our future.
In the world of Post-modernism where there is no one way of doing
or thinking, having one set way for any thing does not matter so
much, even in how we are to celebrate Christmas.
However this is the particular season, when the infinite that is God,
comes to our particular circumstances, in Jesus the babe who lived
two thousand years ago.
It says this has happened, is happening and could happen
anytime. This to me is the loud bang of Christmas which interrupts
our peaceful relaxation and fun days. Christ is born, the Saviour of
the World has come to transform our lives. It demands our heart for
the love of God.
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And the joy, peace, love and hope that is the Christ bless us and
those whom we love. Let us receive the Christ, the interrupted hope,
with praise and worship!
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will
call him Immanuel-which means ‘God with us.” Matthew 1:22
From the Minister
An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand