CHRISTMAS DAY SERMON 2011 By Rev. Fei Taule’ale’ausumai
Do you love people watching? I do. The mall is a great place to do this. Strangely enough Rewi and I went 3 days in a row this week and I just did a lot of people watching. I watched a man talking and laughing to himself in the food hall; it was like he was talking to angels around him because I couldn’t see the people he seemed to be greeting as he sat there. I saw an elderly woman sit on the table next to him and I said to Rewi, ok I’m going to time how many minutes it will be before she moves. Sure enough when her daughter arrived with her food, they were up and moved as far away as possible. When he finally go up to leave he walked past us and we waved out to him to say hello and he looked chuffed and surprised that we noticed him and in return he wished us a merry Christmas and a happy new year and offered us God’s blessing. So there you go, you just don’t know where Christ is hiding in the mall, in our neighbourhood, in the food hall.
On Friday I was waiting in the car while my husband went into his man cave at Mitre 10. I just sat there and people watched listening to Christmas carols on the radio. I looked 2 rows over and saw a disabled woman on her knees at the hatchback end of her car pulling her wheelchair out of the car and then hoisting herself up and wheeling her way into the store. Sometime later she returns (before my husband) with a huge bag on her lap wheeling her way back to her car. I thought I can’t just sit here I must get up and help her. I saw people walking by looking at her wondering if/how they would assist. But then they saw me walking towards her and you could see their relief as I approached her. “Can I give you a hand,” I asked? “Oh, yes please,” she said, “but I’m probably more used to lifting heavy weights than you as I have to lift myself.” “Not a problem,” I said, “I’m happy to help.” Anyway, she says, “that’s 20kg of cat litter for $20; a real bargain, much cheaper than what you pay for 9kg at the supermarket…” “How many cats do you have,” I asked? “Oh just acquired my 9th,” she laughs. Then she pulls her iphone out of her pocket and shows me a photo of 3 of her cats. We chat and laugh a bit then we bid farewell and she goes off to Pak n Save across the road to do some grocery shopping leaving her car at Mitre 10. A God opportunity that was to show someone you cared about them. Even just a helping hand, we don’t have to have major plans to do God’s work, just be open to the spontaneity of God in the opportunities around us in our community. Last night before midnight I went for a drive down Henderson to see if I could find any homeless sleeping on the streets - maybe I was too early I didn’t see anyone. What was I going to do if I found them? I can just hear my mother saying to me “ia fa’afea la pe a e maua, la lou mea e mafai ona fai mo ia?” O iai na iloa? Only God knows, quite often I have no idea. How often do we just go with the random and trust God’s grace to intervene in any God given moment. Have you left a window of opportunity open this Christmas for a God given moment, an opportunity to give God a helping hand?
The message of the gospel of the Christ child, of Jesus of Nazareth is that there is hope for all of us. Hope for the weary, hope for the lost, hope for the forgotten, hope for the homeless, the disabled. Hope came alive for the Samaritan woman at the well, trapped in her state of loneliness, the leper amongst the tombs, considered to be a schizophrenic, the paralytic at the pool, waiting desperately to enter the healing waters. All of these and numerous other people in the bible were excluded from and condemned by society, at a time when they needed the accompaniment of an understanding and caring community the most.
Jesus’ words and action to these and so many others is always affirming and reassuring; and always pointed to life beyond the misery of the moment. Jesus’ ministry is always a signpost of hope for the troubled people he encountered then and now; and for those of us struggling to make sense of life’s challenging and troublesome circumstances, Jesus is that beacon of hope at this Christmas time. I suggest that Christmas points to the extraordinary gift of God’s presence in the person of Jesus, who enables us to see differently, to claim possibilities, and to live above the fray.
Christmas is often a time of despair and struggle when the reality of “not being able to provide and give the gifts that the malls seem to be selling or the music seems to be playing out. For many Christmas is a time of loss and death and grief as loved ones just cannot hold on for another day. The Christmas Carol “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see Thee lie” informs and inspires my convictions concerning hope.
...Yet in thy dark street shineth
the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years
are met in Thee tonight
Like I said last night at our Christmas Eve service, Christmas 2011 greets us with the vulnerability and fragility of Christchurch, a city rocked time and time again from earthquakes and aftershock after aftershock. We are also confronted with families and children experiencing despicable and tragic acts of violence against them and so we need to reflect on our communities and the people around us, our neighbours, our communities, our schools, our cities, our nation. The hopes and fears of all the years must be met in Christ today.
Christmas is not just tonight and tomorrow, today marks the beginning of the work of Christmas for the rest of the year. Today we are challenged to imagine who is lost, who is hungry, who needs peace in March and April. When the shepherds have gone home, the tinsel and the lights are packed away for another year; Christmas for us has just begun. Remember to surprise and bring joy to another, to find someplace to offer the song of the angels to someone who needs not only in December but also in June and whenever.
Howard Thurman puts it this way in his poem “The Work of Christmas”: Which we will sing next week.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
I pray that this Christmas season will rekindle God’s gift of hope within us and stir us to keep it alive; that the message and meaning of Christmas will resonate with our struggle and search for a life of quality; and that God’s miracle of intervention will meet us at the point of our need.
Merry Christmas and God bless. Amen.
Colin Cowan, Christmas message from CWM General Secretary – Hope
April 2011 to June 2012