I remember one Christmas in the 80’s sitting with my brother and sisters, on our Otara home driveway. It was almost customary that on Christmas morning each year, in this small dead-end street, all the kids would come out on the road and play with their newly-opened Christmas presents. It was fun. It was a chance for kids to boast about what they got from under the tree that year and, naturally, an opportunity to compare whose toys were most expensive! Nairn Place, Otara, was a multicultural street. We had Maori, Cook Island and European families as neighbours. It was good when I think about now. We were the only Samoan family there.
Anyway, that Christmas in the 80’s, the Maori kid next door to us, Brian, came out on the road on his brand new BMX bike. It was mean as! He looked at us as we discreetly tucked our little toys behind our backs. With a real cheeky tone he asked, “What did you fullas get this year?” as he whizzed past us – not even waiting for our reply. The nerve. Next door to Brian’s house, Craig, and his European nieces and nephews also rode down their driveway with their new bikes. Was there a massive bike sale our Dad had missed? Next to Craig’s, the Grace family, we already knew had bikes. We had seen Michael and Elton riding around the street before. It became clear that we were the only family in the street that didn’t have bikes. That morning, my siblings and I sat on the driveway watching our neighbours riding their bikes. We knew exactly what we were going to ask for next Christmas!
We were sure to mention “bikes” throughout that following year. Dad got the hint. As Christmas drew near that year, Dad didn’t disappoint us. It was Saturday morning and we were helping Dad put out the heavy rubbish for collection. Once we were done, Dad said, “Let’s go and get your bikes.” We were so excited! We all jumped in the car and off we went. I remember looking back as we exited Nairn Place and saying in my head, “Wait until we get back neighbours. Then, we can ride altogether.” I was so happy. My brother and sisters’ faces were too.
We drove for ages and we all knew that the further we went the bigger the shopping centre. And the bigger the shopping centre the flasher the bikes! In fact, the drive was so long that we kind of fell asleep. We turned down a street and finally the car stopped. Dad’s voice woke us up. “Okay, go and choose a bike.” Slowly waking up I remember coming to my senses and remembering why I was in the car. We were here! Yippee! “Okay, Dad, I’ll choose a bike.” As the car door opened I noticed that we were not at a shopping centre. There was no big bike store. It looked like an ordinary house. Well, a flash as house. A flash as house in Howick. In front of the house was a pile of neatly stacked rubbish. My face changed. So did my brother’s and sister’s. “Come on. Choose a bike,” Dad repeated. In the pile of rubbish were two bike frames. One was bright green with no wheels. The other was a maroon-coloured bike with rims but no tyres. “These aren’t new bikes, Dad!” said my inner tantrum. Dad assured us he would fix them. These were bikes to my Dad. We ended up taking both back home. It was a quiet ride home.
Our father fixed the bright green bike. It wasn’t brand new – but it was ride-able - even though the front wheel was much smaller than the larger rear wheel. I let my sister have that one… It always looked like she would fall forward every time. I kept the maroon-coloured bike as it looked more complete than the green one. My father oiled up the rusted chain but we never did find tyres for the rims. When we heard our neighbours on the street with their bikes, we would roll down our driveway with our bikes and join them. I had the loudest bike on the street – no tyres – sounding like a derailed train was coming down the road. And even though, my neighbours teased me – I enjoyed it. I loved my bike. My sister loved her bike too. For us, our Dad knew what we wanted – even though we couldn’t understand that he couldn’t afford it at the time – he made it happen. He got us our bikes. That’s our Dad.
Jesus, born in a manger, did not make him less a king (Luke 2:2). That Jesus spent much of his time with the poor and oppressed did not lessen his identity as royalty. Yes, in the sight of many, he wasn’t a king. He didn’t possess the traits of a “normal” king. Riding around on a donkey? Refusing to overthrow the Roman authorities? Humbly and obediently walking to the cross without resistance? What kind of king was this? Nevertheless, he was a king – a humble one at that. Like the old bikes our Dad got us that Christmas, to others, these were not bikes. These were parts of bikes. But for a young kid, who had never owned a bike before – it was a bike – a humble one at that.
Not having a bike before made me appreciate the bike that I had. I have not had a king before Jesus came. I appreciate this king who laid down his life for me (John 3:16). My friends in Christ, Jesus taught that we should not worry about what we don’t have (Matthew 6:31). “Your Father in heaven knows the things you need…” And such things, GOD will provide. It may not look like what we expected – but God knows we need it. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (v. 31), and everything that you require will be provided for you.
Be thankful for what you have. Humility is a tasty fruit.
Dedicated to my Dad, Seuala Soa’a Mauga, who was a great picture of humility.
Rev Gary Mauga
Rev. Gary Mauga
Thoughts and comments by our minister, Gary.
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Rev. Gary Mauga