Tag Archives: Christmas

The Cathedral Connection 15 December 2019

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Oh Joyous Prepartion

Throughout Advent we are reminded that this is a ‘time of preparation’.
Preparation in the secular world often sees people rush about, perhaps
stressing as they ponder what presents to purchase, plan a Christmas
meal, a family gathering, at work prepare for the Christmas shutdown and
possibly a summer holiday. Added to our normal everyday tasks, these
preparations can be all consuming and possibly seem overwhelming at
times.

As Christians, Advent is a time – a call – for us to also prepare to celebrate
and remember Christ’s First Coming. It is also a time to look forward and
prepare our minds and hearts for His Second Coming at the end of time.
But what does that actually mean? The scriptures this weekend, which
refer to both mysteries, offer us pointers.

Our Advent readings promise God’s final act of salvation – but salvation
belongs to this world as well as the afterlife. We see this in the first reading
where Isaiah envisions salvation as healing of the blind, deaf, mute and
lame, which elicits songs of ‘’joy and gladness’’. James tells us how to wait,
patiently, making our hearts firm.

John the Baptist leads the way to God’s Kingdom. We, as Christ’s disciples
like John, are called to lead others joyously to God’s Kingdom. Who are
the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, the dead, and the poor in our
world? How do we communicate the News of Great Joy to them? How do
you respond to the call to a life of prayer and action, and to be joyful
messengers of God’s Kingdom?

This weekend, as we move into the second half of Advent: with a sense of
joyful expectation, and an awareness that the fulfilment of God’s great plan
for us is near. Will your preparation this Advent lead you into a quiet time
for reflection and collection?

Debbie Matheson, Lay Pastoral Leader

Cardinal John’s Newsletter 12 December 2019

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Kia tau te rangimarie ki a koutou,

When my sisters and I were young and growing up in Waipukurau, we, like most families decorated a Christmas tree. We used to go out with Dad and find a pine branch somewhere and that became our Christmas tree. We also had a beautiful Nativity set prepared in the fireplace every year. A friend of Dad’s painted a scene of Bethlehem on a heavy kind of cardboard. That became the background as it was fitted into the back of the fireplace every year to help set the scene. Many of us will have such memories of preparing Nativity scenes to help us to reflect on the wonder and joy of Christmas.

Pope Francis has just a few days ago written a letter on the meaning and the importance of the Nativity scene. The letter was given from Greccio, the place in Italy where Francis of Assisi in 1224, replicated the manger scene and helped people to prayerfully contemplate the mystery of “God among us.”. Today, in Greccio, one can still see the stone on which the hay was placed, and where the image of the baby was laid. There were no figures of Joseph and Mary, just the baby and two animals.

In his letter Pope Francs says this “The enchanting image of the Christmas crèche, so dear to the Christian people, never ceases to arouse amazement and wonder. The depiction of Jesus’ birth is itself a simple and joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture. As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman. We come to realize that so great is his love for us that he became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with him.”

The Pope also encourages families to pick up this tradition once again of preparing a Nativity scene “in our homes, workplaces, schools’ hospitals, prisons and town squares.”

We will see many cribs over the next couple of weeks. Will they be an opportunity for prayer and reflection for us, will we stop in awe and give thanks that “a child is born to us, a son is given to us” (Isaiah 9:5-6)?

Please think of Pope Francis words to us this Christmas: “Dear brothers and sisters, the Christmas crèche is part of the precious yet demanding process of passing on the faith. Beginning in childhood, and at every stage of our lives, it teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with him, his children, brothers and sisters all, thanks to that Child who is the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary. And to realize that in that knowledge we find true happiness. Like Saint Francis, may we open our hearts to this simple grace, so that from our wonderment a humble prayer may arise: a prayer of thanksgiving to God, who wished to share with us his all, and thus never to leave us alone.”

With every blessing for Christmas

Naku noa
+John

The Cathedral Connection 8 December 2019

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As we celebrate the second Sunday of Advent, it is important not to lose track of the first. Last week, Michael Fletcher reminded us that Advent invites us to pay attention to what is going on in our own environment and our own hearts.

Today’s gospel is a further warning as John the Baptist encounters the Pharisees and Sadducees arriving for John’s baptism of repentance. John’s description of them as “progeny of vipers” seems a little harsh, but the Baptist exposes them as people who did not appreciate or chose to ignore what was in their hearts.

The Pharisees and Sadducees did not, in John’s words, produce fruit worthy of repentance and relied instead on their physical descent from Abraham.

As John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus, let us take his warnings seriously and look at our own hearts in preparation for the coming of Jesus.

Nicholas Burley
Parish Council Member 

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SOMEDAY AT CHRISTMAS – A CELEBRATION OF HOPE

SOMEDAY AT CHRISTMAS – A CELEBRATION OF HOPE

HOMILY – 4 ADVENT [C] 2018

Radio cricket commentators talk a lot.  They have to.  There is no place for silence on radio; no pictures to fill any gaps.  Even so, the constant cricket talk got to me on Monday and I switched programmes.  I think I was meant to, because there was an interview with a Year 12 Papatoetoe High School student, Silika Isaia.  This very talented singer had been invited to perform a Christmas song and she chose a Stevie Wonder composition, Someday at Christmas.

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
a world where people are free.

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth.

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where people are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmas time.
 
 Our first reading names the place where the promised One would be born: Bethlehem.  It’s the prophecy later quoted to Herod when he heard there were royal visitors looking for the new born King of the Jews.  It terrified him that he might have a rival.  Bethlehem was not a name that gave him hope.  Herod is that part of each of us that puts self on the top shelf.  Nothing and no one can get in the way.

The gospel gives us the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth – a picture of calm celebration, despite it being for them a time of deep uncertainty.  Mary is still grappling with the circumstances of her pregnancy; the hill country she travels through does not guarantee safety.  Yet her concern for her elder cousin, together with her dignity and faith, has Elizabeth proclaiming: Of all women you are the most blessed.  –  a proclamation of hope.

Someday at Christmas man will not have failed
Hate will be gone and love will prevail
There’ll be a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart.

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
When all people are equal and none have fears
One shining moment, one prayer away
From our world today.

Is what we are yearning for – peace and togetherness – is it just a prayer away?  Then what’s stopping us?

Mary, Elizabeth and the others we meet in the Christmas story were very ordinary people, but they show a deep level of trust – and a willingness to accept what for the moment doesn’t make much sense – that impels them well beyond their individual talents.

The cricket was washed out, but Christmas stays through all weathers, giving us chance after chance.  There is wonder and hope in this most incredible story: the God of all creation becoming one of us!  Just as every birth rekindles hope in humanity, every Christmas tells us that the world is not lost, and neither are we.

Hold that hope.  Someday at Christmas…

The Cathedral Connection 23 December 2018

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Displayed on the street front of a church not far from here, this poster reflects the growing concern among individuals and nations that all is not well with our world. Domestic violence and abuse of

trust, homelessness, mental illness, an alarming suicide rate, charges of people trafficking and slavery in our own country, reportedly taking New Zealand “to a new low”, present images of frightening instability.

Yet, each Christmas, we are offered an image of enormous hope. From within a rustic, weather-beaten and neglected shelter, scarcely suitable for animals let alone people, a mother gives birth and another child is born. It’s been said that every new-born shows God’s trust in the world. Why else would God continue to gift new life?

The Christmas stable is our starting point towards a future that recognises and welcomes life in all its forms, that respects the dignity of every person, especially the most vulnerable, and rejoices in the wonder, the grace and the beauty that shines around us, even when what we have or see appears to be of little value.

We each have the power to be “a stable influence” in life. Imagine the difference for good if we did just that! God’s trust would certainly be vindicated.

Fr James

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