God with Us

God with Us

Luke 2: 1-14
The Birth of Jesus
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.  2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  3All went to their own towns to be registered.  4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.  6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.  7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

The Shepherds and the Angels
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’  13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o te Wairua Tapu

Merry Christmas whanau! I hope you are enjoying your time with your whanau. I have already received many calls to wish our whanau the best for Christmas and it’s great to catch up with different ones. At least I know they are okay and that they are not spending this time alone like many in this huge city. 

That is why Christmas is so important as it constantly reminds us that it’s the time when we celebrate God’s unconditional gift of love to the world.  The birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! God born into a world full of hate, rejection and evil.  Yet, with this divine birth, God brings hope, peace, joy and love. 

As I reflect on the past year, I want to acknowledge the willingness of our church, with some apprehension of course, to change our values and attitudes to further strengthen our faith, be more generous to others and more open to God’s love so it enables us to share that love with our people in Sydney.

How time passes so quickly! 311 baptisms, 72 confirmations, 30 marriages, And almost 500 tangihanga later. It’s been a privilege to serve Christ as your priest for 20 years in this amazing city of Sydney. It’s been challenging with many ups and downs but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Luke states in our gospel, “To you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” God is with Us! That says it all. That’s the Christmas truth. It’s the only thing that needs to be said and it’s the only thing I have to tell you. Nothing more, nothing less.

They are the angel’s words to the shepherds. “To you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” They are words of “good news of great joy for all people.” Today Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 9:2-7) is fulfilled. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.”

Every year I look forward to being reminded of the angel’s words. I want to be told that this story is true and can be trusted. I want to know the reality of this birth is in my life, in your lives and in our world. I think that’s what we all want. We want to hear the angel’s words again like the very first time.

Why do I say that? Because I have walked and lived in the land of darkness. I’ve known when my life was full of darkness. But I’ve also walked alongside many that have been surrounded by darkness. And, I look at our world and see so much suffering that I want to hear some good news of great joy, not just for me but for all people. I think you know what I’m talking about. 

There are whanau, friends and loved ones who are walking in the darkness of serious illnesses – waiting, wondering and weeping. We have lived in the darkness of grief, loss, and sorrow. The names and faces of whanau and friends still run through our minds like it was yesterday. The darkness of self-doubt, confusion and not knowing, have caused each of us to stumble and fall. Sometimes our words and actions, our choices and priorities, things we have done and left undone, have darkened our Wairua and our minds, leaving us blind to new possibilities. 

There are so many issues that face humanity at this time that you and I don’t know what to do with or actually do anything about them. We all desperately want to hear good news of great joy for all people, for all indigenous people, blacks and whites, Muslims and Christians, Jews and Palestinians, citizens and immigrants; and we want to see that good news overcome all that divides us.

That’s why Christmas is so important. We have all experienced some darkness over the past year and we have longed to be told good news of great joy. And for some of us that wasn’t just about the past year. It describes our life right up to now. Christmas reminds us that this story is real and true. “To you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” You will never be disappointed because the manger of Christ never disappoints. Every year, the “child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger” reminds us like the first time, that we know this story is true. Knowing the reality of its truth for each of our lives. The manger in Bethlehem holds the creator of us all and because of that manger, you and I, and every aspect of our lives, and all of creation are cradled in him. Today the Creator is born and by his birth, we, the created, are made anew, reborn, and recreated to face 2021.

I can’t tell you how this happens. I don’t know. I only know that it does happen. Year after year it happens. I’ve experienced it in my life and I’ve seen it happen in the lives of others. The only thing I can tell you is this: “To you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” And that is good news of great joy for all people.

What an exciting time ahead for our church. And, you are all apart of bringing others to Christ through your words and actions. May God with us, through Jesus Christ, continue to strengthen your hope, your faith and your love for humanity and may peace be with you and your families this Christmas. Amen.

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu