December 20, 2008
To the people and communities of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia
Te Hahi Mihinare ki Aotearoa ki Niu Tireni, Ki Nga Moutere o te Moana Nui a Kiwa
Tena koutou katoa, Ni sa bula vinaka, Malo elelei, Namas’te, Talofa lava, Warm greetings.
The three of us have just enjoyed celebrating the centennial of the Diocese of Polynesia in Suva where, once again, we were reminded of God’s faithfulness in history.
The Anglican story in Polynesia begins in the most inconspicuous of ways – in 1870, a solitary, faithful priest is sent from Melbourne to sow Gospel seed among the planters and traders in Levuka, Fiji’s old, wild, colonial capital.
From such humble beginnings the diocese has grown to maturity, and become the diverse, far-flung multicultural community of faith that is now Tikanga Pasifika.
God is good. God is life, great is God’s love.
Such small beginnings: but beginnings such as these are God’s chosen pattern, and we see the greatness, goodness and creative love of God revealed above all in the story of Christmas.
God comes into the world in the smallest and most vulnerable of ways, beginning with a tiny seed which then grows up and reaches out in grace and strength to transform the world forever.
What does this mean for us? Perhaps this, among other things – that God’s justice and God’s righteousness can be conceived, take flesh, be born and grow under any circumstances – including those that, to our eyes, may seem least promising.
This pattern is a tribute to the marvelous patience and farsightedness of God. As we see in the whakapapa retold at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, this birth was longed for by many generations. The story witnesses to a wisdom, a grace and a quest which defies human reckoning and surpasses human endurance.
May this Christmas give you the opportunity again to treasure the babies and children in your whanau, the smallest in your family gatherings. As you keep the Christmas festivals may the thought of a smile on the face of a baby in whom God is pleased to dwell, bless you and cheer you. May God give you a heart for all those known to you for whom Christmas is a time of loneliness, tragedy or suffering. And may we pause to consider: how can we respond to these ones with the heart of God?
We remember too, the gritty details of the Christmas story – the exhausted, heavily pregnant mother who is forced to make a long and arduous journey, who is treated like a homeless refugee, who must give birth next to an animal trough – and who must then flee with her husband and newborn baby, because a power-crazed tyrant threatens their lives.
It is under these circumstances that God chooses to become incarnate, thereby demonstrating the toughest of all loves and the most convincing of all forms of hope.
In the light of this story we must then ask ourselves: what hope can we bring to those for whom Christmas joy seems impossible? The Christmas appeals of the great Christian aid agencies come to mind, as do the needs of those immediately around us.
Here in the South Pacific, may the sun of God’s love shine upon you in the days ahead. May the Son of God bring you His light, His love and His truth in and through the smallest and most vulnerable, in and through the ordinary places, in and through the anxieties and hopes we share.
For at Christmas we find again, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that God’s aroha and life is born amongst us.
Love came through at Christmas. Alleluia, alleluia.
Wishing you the wisdom of the sages to gain your bearings;
The wonder of the shepherds to fill you with awe
and the joy and hope of the Holy Family to grace your home
this Christmas Season.
Archbishop Jabez Bryce Bishop of Polynesia
Archbishop David Moxon Senior Bishop of the New Zealand Dioceses
Archbishop Brown Turei Bishop of Aotearoa