Bishops’ Christmas Message: Bearing Tidings of Great Joy

May you know the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven surrounding you as you gather as Christian communities to celebrate the birth of Christ!

One of the things that is so astonishing and wonderful in the birth narratives of Jesus is the dynamic interplay between the earthly and heavenly agency and activity that surrounds the gifting of Jesus into our world. Angels from on high in fellowship with shepherds, the class of citizen who were, in many ways, the least and the last in their culture. Both are entrusted to bear tidings of great joy. A family of the great kingly line of David returning to the Town of David, joined in celebration, worship and angelic guidance by Magi, who have no lineage or cultural tie to this genealogy of blessing; again the last and the first united in fresh configuration and bearing tidings of great joy.

The biblical scholar Kenneth Bailey, writing from a deep contextual understanding of the Holy Land, paints such a beautiful picture of the community of welcome and hospitality that he believes would have surrounded Mary, Joseph and the new-born Jesus. Rather than the portrayal of isolation that is often depicted in our interpretation of the “no room at the inn”, he translates an understanding of the simple Bethlehem home in which family, guests and animals stable and co-habit. He sees the Holy Family held within the attendance and hospitality of their tribal home, in simplicity and honour.

As we imagine that community all those years ago, a community formed by deep whakapapa and promise, our minds turn to us and our community gatherings. We are not so different. The first and the last, the lost and the found, those with the least and those with plenty, all woven together into a tapestry of belonging to Jesus. This is our church. Each one of us called to bear good news and great joy. This interwovenness is good news. This belonging together is the joy of God’s Kingdom come – or we could say, God’s Kin-dom come, God’s invitation into the family.

May simplicity and honour shape your Christmas celebrations this year.

We pray that your homes and your churches are rich with this goodness and this joy. And as you retell the good news of Jesus, that God continues to choose to come to us and be with us, may you know the heavenly community in fellowship with you.

Angels from the realms of glory
Wing your flight through all the earth
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth

In excelsis deo

Happy Christmas,

+Justin and +Eleanor