Tuesday, 23 December 2014

CHRISTMAS - 2000 YEARS AGO, 200 YEARS AGO AND THIS YEAR - IN NEW ZEALAND

We are spending Christmas in New Zealand again this year.  We are with the Auckland branch of our scattered family in the beautiful seaside town of Pauanui on the Coromandel Peninsula.  Spring was late this year in New Zealand.  As a result we have the joy of being surrounded by a forest of trees that grow beside the sea all around the northern part on New Zealand. 



These trees are called pohutukawa and are affectionately referred to as the New Zealand Christmas tree. They are called this because they bear masses of flowers that are bright red with a yellow touch on the end of each bloom.  They make a stunning seasonal display every year but are usually over by mid December.  So this year being late they are beautifully covering the shores and slopes of the hills that drop down to the sea.



We all know that Christmas is a time of giving which is almost a cliche now. Yet this year we have really seen this in a number of ways.  Our daughter, doing a big pre Christmas shop in an Auckland supermarket, was approached by the manager who presented her with a beautiful huge Christmas ham.  This has been cooked and in the process of being consumed!

Also Linda and I have been on the receiving end of a well orchestrated plot over the last two months involving many friends around the world who clubbed together and have given us a very generous gift to bless and encourage us.  Our friends in the UK 'skyped' us and announced that they had some good news to give us which would bring us great joy!  It certainly was a huge blessing and a great encouragement to us. We don't know who was party to this collection so if you are reading this and you were. Then thank you so much.  There was obviously a lot of joy in the planning of this gift as well as in the receiving of it. 

This brings me to the other good news which brings great joy to all men.  The Christmas message itself is really good news of the joyful plan in God's heart.  He sends his son into our world to bring us, like lost and orphaned children back home to him.  He sent angels to announce this news. This is really tidings of great joy.


This Christmas is the 200th anniversary of the first time this good news was preached in New Zealand.  There are many celebrations across the country involving the "People of the Land" - the Maori and also Pakeha - the rest of us.  Maori means normal and Pakeha means strange which certainly is a perspective.   The first good news preacher was Samuel Marsden, a member of the Church Missionary Society, an Anglican mission from Great Britain.  He had been invited by the local Maori chief, Ruatara, whom he had met in New South Wales.  Marsden encouraged and supported by local Maori preached the gospel on Christmas day 1814. His message was based on the verse "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy." The message of the angels to the shepherds at the first Christmas.  The good news was preached on a beach in Northland on Christmas day under the pohutukawa trees dripping red with the beautiful blossom.


I have the privilege too on the first Sunday after Christmas to preach in a little church on the coast of New Zealand surrounded like Marsden by pohutukawa trees, and I'm going to preach on the same verse. I do like a sense of history!   A joy-filled and blessed Christmas to you too.

No comments:

Post a Comment