What images from 2015 remain fixed in your mind?
We’ll hazard a guess: for most of us, it’ll be the images of refugees fleeing from tyranny and war.
Images of the innocent, suffering.
Images, too, of brutal extremists hiding behind the miserable pretence of religious justification.
History, including Church history, is littered with testimony to human evil, selfishness and greed.
So often this has been done in the name of what is “right”, the way of absolutes and certainty.
“I am right. You are wrong. You must conform to my way of thinking – or suffer the consequences.”
We have heard the rhetoric of the extremist and been confronted, again and again, by the images of this tyranny of the “right”.
But violence just begets violence, and hatred begets more hatred. It does not provide solutions; it just creates more problems.
The Christ child, the one whose birth we celebrate, born to an unwed mother who had no place to shelter – the family then forced to flee to a foreign land for fear of a tyrant.
This child, Christians believe, shows us the simple but improbable way God, who is love, reaches out to us.
It is the way that begins by placing yourself in the shoes of another. And by trying to see the world through that other person's eyes. We do not have to agree with that other person. We might not even like what they stand for.
In fact, we may profoundly disagree.
But we need to see in every other person, even our enemy, someone beloved of God.
This is the way of costly, sacrificial love.
This way has the ability to redeem and transform even the most hardened of extremists, and the very worst of situations.
It is the way of compassion, in the true sense of that word; sharing in the suffering of the other.
It is the way of dialogue. It is the way of reconciliation. Only love can transform an enemy into a friend.
This way is demanding. It requires faith, courage, perseverance, fortitude, and commitment. It defies convention and opens you up to ridicule; it is the way of the infant born in Bethlehem.
We instinctively know the truth of this way, and we long for it.
We know that the world is, despite these awful images, overwhelmingly a place of goodness and beauty.
We know that love wins because of the promise and the hope of the Christ child.
And never has the message of this child, and His way, been more needed.
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.
Luke 1:78-79 (The Message)
May the God who takes the risk of reaching out and being vulnerable, who really loves us, deeply bless you and your families this Christmas.
Archbishop Brown Turei, Bishop of Aotearoa;
Archbishop Philip Richardson, senior bishop of the New Zealand dioceses;
Archbishop Winston Halapua, Bishop of Polynesia.