Kia tau ki a koutou te atawhai me te rangimarie o te Atua
願 父 神 所 賜 的 恩 惠 和 平 安 與 你 們 同 在
Grace and peace to you from God
WORTHY IS THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN
Not quite the heading you'd expect in a pre-Christmas message from your Bishop! But these are the final words of scripture sung in what many consider to be the quintessential piece of Christmas music – Georg Fredrich Händel's Messiah.
I had the joy of singing this with our eldest daughter Chelsea, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra last weekend in Wellington, and as we arrived at this chorus almost two hours after beginning Messiah, and having sung all the 'real' Christmas stuff earlier on (Behold a Virgin Shall Conceive, For Unto Us a Child is Born, There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Fields, and Glory to God etc.), it dawned on me once again why Christ, the Lamb was born and why we accord him power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing (straight from Messiah or Revelation 5:12-13).
For this Lamb who was born and who was slain "hath redeemed us to God by his blood."
We sang to a capacity audience in the Michael Fowler Centre; over 2200 people. And they stood at the end, applauding. I'm sure many were responding to the fine music (the reviews say one of the best performances of Messiah ever heard in Wellington), but I'd also like to think that some (most / all?) may have been standing in response to the gospel; that they somehow heard in this music the gift of salvation … that the One who is born is the One that has died, who by his blood redeems, saves, heals, restores and blesses many with life and joy everlasting.
I want to believe, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, surely and somehow dearest Jesus, holy child has made his bed, soft, undefiled within the hearts of those who heard God's love proclaimed that evening in music and song (check v.11 in From Heaven Above to Earth I Come in the Lutheran Hymnal, #23).
Once again, this Christmas, you are invited to welcome God Incarnate; to invite Immanuel to be God with you and in you and through you. We are invited again to incarnate God into our lives. We are invited again to let our lives become the song of Messiah; to let our lives to be the means by which the gospel is sung and proclaimed to the people and the communities that we love and in which we live.
A few years back we sang a beautiful song by Steve Merkel as part of the Christmas Eve children's' service which captures the essence of incarnation and the fact that at Christmas we are already looking to the cross of our salvation –
Longing for a Saviour A hopeless world would wait Sin demanded justice At a price we could not pay; But God displayed his mercy The greatest gift of love When we could not reach heaven Heaven came to us.
He made a way in a manger A way to the cross Messiah the promised Before time had begun; For God so loved this world Though he knew what love would cost He made a way in a manger To make a way to the cross.
In Bethlehem a stable Became a throne of grace As God himself our Saviour Drew near to take our place; His mother smiled in wonder As shepherds stood in awe The sacrifice of heaven Lay sleeping in the straw.
He is the life that died our death The precious Lord Jesus Laid down his sweet head.
He made a way in a manger A way to the cross Messiah, the promised Before time had begun; For God so loved this world Though He knew what love would cost He made a way in a manger To make a way to the cross.
Away in a manger, no crib for his bed The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head The stars in the sky looked down where He lay The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
Blessings and joy to you as you worship God Incarnate this Christmas time and as you spend holiday time with family and friends … at the beach, the bach, the barbie, the cricket, or wherever.
CHRISTMAS WORSHIP AROUND AOTEAROA
At the time of publishing this Bishop's Page, these are the details of Christmas Worship that I had been made aware of in the Lutheran Churches in New Zealand:
Mountainside Lutheran Church, Auckland
- Christmas Eve, 7.00pm, "The Shepherd's Christmas"
- Christmas Eve, 11.00pm, Christmas Story with Carols
- Christmas Day, 10.00am, "Does God Have a Big Toe?"
Botany Lutheran Church, Auckland
- Christmas Day, 10.00am
St Matthew Lutheran Church, Hamilton
- Christmas Eve, 7.00pm, Lessons and Carols
- Christmas Day, 9.00am, Holy Communion Liturgy set to Carol Tunes
- 20th December, 10.00am at Joan Tessendorf's home (53 Pelorus Street Welcome Bay)
- 20th December, Carols and Readings Service
- 27th December, Christmas themed Service with Holy Communion
Harrison Street Community Church (St Johns Lutheran) Whanganui
- Christmas Eve, 5.30pm, Service and Community Meal
Manawatu Lutheran Parish
- Christmas Eve, 7.00pm at Palmerston North
- Christmas Day, 8.30am with Holy Communion at Feilding
- Christmas Day, 10.00am with Holy Communion at Palmerston North
St Pauls Lutheran Church Wellington
- Christmas Eve, 7.00pm, Family Christmas Service
- Christmas Day, 10.00am, Festival Service
St Francis Mauriceville West Wairarapa
- 20th December, 5.00pm at Alecock's home, Greytown
St Pauls Lutheran Community Church Upper Moutere
- Christmas Eve, 7.00pm, Family Service
- Christmas Eve, 11.15pm, Reflective Service
- Christmas Day, 9.30am
St Pauls Lutheran Church Christchurch (worshipping together with All Saints Anglican Parish)
- Christmas Eve, 11.30pm
- Christmas Eve Service with Holy Communion
- Christmas Day, 10.00am, Christmas Day Service with Holy Communion
FEBRUARY START FOR LUTHERAN MEDIA IN NEW ZEALAND
Pastor Richard Fox (Director of Lutheran Media in the LCA-NZ) writes: Great news! NZ.ME (Newstalk ZB) has approved our radio messages and we are preparing for a February start.
Pastor Richard plans to come to Auckland on the 30th and 31st January to help participate in worship and to prepare the Reference-Support Group that will be made up of some members from Mountainside Lutheran Church. The Reference-Support Group will be equipped to help them follow up with audience responses.
FROM THE SUNNY HAWKES BAY ...
Bill Groves reports on the wonderful way the cooperating denominations of St Francis in Clive worked together to host this year's Longest Lutheran Lunch.
This is the second time that Redeemer Lutheran Congregation has celebrated Reformation Day with a Worship Service followed by the Longest Lutheran Lunch.
After worship we all went into the hall and asked if members to mix up and to sit with someone that they did not know. I pray to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for this happen for they all had a great time talking with one another. Erwin Sonnendecker spoke about Reformation and Martin Luther and we had a short video on how the Luther Rose was constructed.
We had some Bible Quiz's and if they had the right answer they won a prize. After that I had some humour jokes (We love your jokes, Bill!! ed.), plus some old time tunes played on the piano which some of us sang along with.
The Longest Lutheran Lunch ended about 2:30pm with all the volunteer helpers cleaning up wash dishes and put everything a way then heading home and putting our feet up and thanking the Lord for a lovely day we all had and YIPPEE! Looking forward in running one next year so we can have another wonderful marvellous event to celebrate Reformation Day 2016.
Just a reminder for every LCNZ congregation to plan how you (a) as a congregation can make a group submission, and (b) can also make an individual submission. Please check: www.carealliance.org.nz for more information.
LCNZ OFFICE CLOSED OVER CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR
The LCNZ District Office will close on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and will reopen on Tuesday 5th January. If, during this period, you need to speak with me or with LCNZ Administrator Robert Hagen, please call the LCNZ office (04 3852540) for information on how to reach us.
A KIWI CHRISTMAS
Friends, this afternoon I have driven from Wellington to the Sunny Hawkes Bay (there's a ring to that name!) to lead worship at St Francis in Clive tomorrow morning and to baptise Bill Grove's grandson, Lukas.
It was a really nice drive … leaving the steep hills north of Wellington where the big machines indicate that Transmission Gully is well underway (here's an Advent preparation thing going if ever there was one … make straight the way of the Lord … every valley shall be lifted, the rough places made smooth; that sort of thing) … through the beautiful districts of the Horowhenua and Manawatu … through the gorge to the East Coast where freshly mown hay lies in Central Hawkes Bay paddocks, and finally into the wine and citrus region of the Hawkes Bay.
Are we blessed to live in Godzone or what?
And as I drove and loved the country I was driving through, the Kiwis were trying to recover from an early-order collapse in the Second Test against Sri Lanka … and towards the end of my drive the 'Nix' were managing to salvage a 1-all draw in the football from the Cake-Tin (Wellington's stadium).
All this reminded me that summer's here … even though it felt a bit more like winter in Wellington overnight. Spare a thought – and a prayer – for our sisters and brothers in the LCA, especially in the states of South Australia and Victoria, as they have and continue to endure temperatures for days on end above 40deg and the danger of bushfire that comes with such heat … and thank God that rain has fallen in the parched places here that need it (North Canterbury most recently).
And tomorrow a baptism … and a beautiful song from Mary: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
Summer's here … the sun is out … the Son of God is to be born.
MĀNAWATANGA / BLESSING
Whanau ki a matou te he tamaiti: E haere mai, kia koropiko ki a ia tatou. Areruia.
To us a child is born: O come, let us adore him. Alleluia. (Isaiah 9:6)
Na konei i kitea mai ai te aroha o te Atua ki a tatou, na te mea kua tonoa mai e te Atua tana Tama kotahi ki te ao, kia ora ai tatou i a ia.
In this, O God, your love was manifest among us, that you sent your only Son into the world so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)
To you all – Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete; wishing you all joy and peace at Christmas. Me te aroha nui atu o mātou katoa; lots of love from us all here in the Whitfield family ...
... Leanne, +Mark, Chelsea, Brittany and Charlotte.
Pastor Mark Whitfield BTh MSM
Bishop of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand / Pīhopa o te Hāhi Rūtana o Aotearoa