They were set for the home, but the horse went lame
And the rain came pelting out of the sky
Joe saw the hut and he went to look
‘Christmas Day Sermon’
And he said, ‘She’s old, but she’ll keep you dry’
So her kid was born in that roadman’s shack John 1:1–14
By the light of a lamp that’d hardly burn
She wrapped him up in her hubby’s coat
And put him down on a bed of fern Bishop David Coles
Then they came riding out of the night
(And this is the thing that she’ll always swear)
As they took off their hats and came into the light Ki te ingoa o te Matua, Te Tamaiti
They knew they were going to find her there Ma te Wairua Tapu
Three old jokers in oilskin coats
Stood by the bunk in that leaking shack Come Lord Jesus, come into our world and set us free to respond to your love as
One had a beard like a billygoat’s we remember your birth and as we listen to your story.
And one was frail and one was black Amen.
She sat at the foot of the fernstalk bed It was not an auspicious beginning. A young man named Ruatara of the Northland
And she watched, but she didn’t understand Ngapuhi Maori tribe – a chief – left the Bay of Islands as a crew member on a
While they put these bundles at the baby’s head whaling ship 199 years ago in 1805. He believed he would get to see King George
And this river nugget into his hand III in England! He went to England but didn’t meet the King. But instead over the
next four years he served on several whaling ships – some of the crew treated
Gold is the power of a man with a man him well. Some badly – defrauding or abandoning him. He was starving when the
And incense the power of man with God Anglican Missionary and Chaplain to the Australian Penal Colonies discovered
But myrrh is the bitter taste of death Ruatara in Paramatta, Sydney. He stayed with Marsden for eight months, studying
And the sour-sweet smell of the upturned sod European farming methods and carpentry and wheat growing. He began to return
to Aotearoa in 1810, arriving back in the Bay of Island in 1812 and eventually wel-
Then they went, while she watched through the open door comed Samuel Marsden to this land where the first service was conducted in the
Weary as men who had ridden too far Bay of Islands at Oihi Bay in 1814 – 190 years ago today.
And the rain eased off and the low cloud broke
And through a gap shone a single star.” I said it was not an auspicious beginning because Samuel Marsden preached from
Luke’s Gospel Ch 2 v.10 “Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy.” The whole
So a happy, joyful Christmas filled with unconstrained goodwill – Grace upon Grace. Maori village turned out to hear him, but Ruatara was not an expert translator. One
Christ is born. Christ is born. of the Maori elders asked Ruatara “ pehea mai ana te Pakeha na” (What is the
meaning of the Pakeha’s words?” Ruatara replied; “Kaore koutou e marama i-nai-
Amen. anei; taro ake nei” (You don’t understand what he’s saying now, but you will by and
by). And so Christianity was planted in this nation on this day 190 years ago.
I wonder whether the present generation of New Zealanders really understand
Christ Church Cathedral the Christmas Gospel any better than those who heard it preached in a foreign
PO Box 855 Christchurch New Zealand language all those years ago? Oh yes, we hear the words, we see the Christmas
Ph (03) 366 0046 Fax (03) 366 8452 crib. Our children act out their nativity plays. We sing the carols, we send the cards.
But what’s it all about?
email: email@example.com www.christchurchcathedral.co.nz
If you go to the wax works at Madame Tussaud’s in Marylebone Road, London this (Grace = “unconstrained goodwill that cannot be claimed as of right” – as the
Christmas, you will be able to see their nativity scene. A picture of it featured in the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines it)
Christchurch Press a few days ago. Joseph and Mary are depicted in the likenesses
of the English soccer captain, David Beckham and his wife Victoria. Kylie Minogue God’s grace imploding, arriving with unconstrained goodwill, unconditional love in
is the Angel. And perhaps, most bizarre of all, the three wise men are Tony Blair, the person of Jesus into the very midst of the “real word” of homelessness, of war
The Duke of Edinburgh and George Dubbya Bush! Well that collection of twenty- and famine in Darfur, into the real world of unconstrained terror in Iraq, into the real
first century doesn’t seem to me to portray much of the Gospel reality either! But I world of broken homes, and broken dreams, into the real world of aging and dying
suppose that’s what we do. We impose our own fantasies onto the Christmas story. and disease.
From the time we were little children, we fantasise about what Santa Claus will bring
God’s grace still comes into this real and troubled world, just as it did at the birth of
us. We fantasise about family gatherings where there will be peace and goodwill,
Jesus in Bethlehem, overshadowed by a cruel and calculating King Herod. Just as it
only to find that the realities are often different.
did at the birth of Jesus in the reality of his world, ruled by a super power in the form
Bing Cosby croons about his dream for a white Christmas – well that one nearly did of the Roman Empire and Caesar Augustus. The power that invented crucifixion. That
come true in this NZ summer. I saw snow falling a week ago at Hanmer Springs! The was real. Taxation was real. Death and slaughter were as real then as they are now.
newspapers will be full of stories of motor accidents and international disasters, of And that is the great hope of the Incarnation – that God’s grace comes to us in the
further bloodshed and slaughter in Iraq – maybe even in the Holy Land where Jesus midst of all this awful reality. ‘God with us’ – that is what ‘Emmanuel’ means – not just
was born… where the angels announced peace, goodwill towards all people. Barely a Hebrew word translated – but God’s love translated into the real world – the living,
had the angelic heavenly host moved on when King Herod heard the news of the loving God present in and among the whole creation. God does not abandon what
birth of a new King of the Jews, when he became so paranoid about the potential God has created, but becomes one with us, that we may become one with God.
loss of his power that he ordered the slaughter of all children in Bethlehem under
It is the gift of God for the people of God. Surely we can’t explain that. God help all
two years old – the massacre of the Innocents – a day we remember in the Christian
the preachers in the world today who are trying to explain Christmas. Nor can we
calendar on 28th of December – on Tuesday.
claim to really understand this unconditional love of God which is poured out upon
And, I’m sorry to tell you, that this world cannot deliver Christmas as you want it. I us – grace – all we can do is receive the gift and say “Oh, you shouldn’t have…”
suspect you already know that, and I suspect you are not surprised by it – but it is And it is only in the receiving of this gift of love that we really begin to discover how
the case. It is into this dark world, not into some Hollywood fantasy or Christmas in wide and deep and amazing it really is – “Amazing Grace…”
the Park extravaganza that Christmas comes, God’s gift for the salvation of us all.
And that is why we persist with Christmas. The secularists have been willing it out
It’s understandable, that we want to experience heaven on earth. That we want, for
of existence for centuries. The political correctness gurus tell us we shouldn’t wish
a time, even a day, to leave behind the world of pain and tragedy and suffering and
people a “Happy Christmas”, but a “happy holiday season”. A local kindergarten
disappointment. Just give us a few hours of peace and goodwill – just a glimpse
cancelled their nativity play because it offended some Jehovah’s witnesses. Well,
of a world built on love – where the “hopes and fears of all the years” are focussed
I’m sorry folks, but it is the irresistible Gospel of Good News that calls millions upon
– as we sing in the carol;
millions in this world to come and kneel with the shepherds and the wise men and
“Oh little town of Bethlehem – how still we see thee lie – yet in thy dark streets shineth to peer into the crib to behold the glory of God in human face of the infant Christ.
the everlasting light, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” They all come. The good, the bad, the ugly, the fearful, the hopeful, the faithful and
the doubtful. It is an irresistible invitation to receive the amazing gift of grace – of
The Christmas Gospel from the first chapter of John speaks powerfully of God’s light God’s unconditional love – no strings attached – just come and behold him – Em-
coming into this world of darkness. manuel. God with us.
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9). I began with Ruatara and Samuel Marsden – that first Kiwi Christmas. And I want to
And the word became flesh and lived among us – and we have seen his glory – the finish with a Kiwi Christmas poem by the late Peter Cape – he was an Anglican priest
glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth… from his fullness we have all as well as a writer and a poet. He sets this nativity scene – perhaps in somewhere
received, grace upon grace.” (v16) like Arthurs Pass in the 1930s.