Merry Christmas. Meri Kirihimete.
On Christmas Day 1814 in Rangihoua at the northern end of the Bay of Islands in New Zealand the Reverend Samuel Marsden preached what is regarded as the first Christian sermon in New Zealand. He spoke on the words of the angel announcing the birth of the Christ from Luke 2:10 “ Behold I bring you tidings of great joy.” And it is with great joy that we can gather here today to celebrate both these events: the birth of the long awaited Messiah and the sharing of the wondrous story for the first time in New Zealand.
I wonder if we can be blasé about the significance of both these events. As we get tied up in gift giving and receiving on Christmas day, we can overlook that the gift we celebrate together here is the one that trumps them all. As J Packer wrote: “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.” Our gift, is the helpless human baby born to Mary and Joseph who is the Word made flesh; the word of Hope and Peace has arrived! It is a gift and a word that our country needs now as much as ever. A glance at the daily paper, or thirty minutes of watching the news is enough to remind us that the world is often a dark, scary and lonely place. The mystery and miracle that is Christmas has arrived. We are invited to be like Mary and receive the gift of Christ with glad and joyful hearts. And we are invited to be like both Mary and Marsden in sharing the gift of Christ with the world.