I was visited New Zealand in the summer – their winter. I was speaking at a conference on mission. My wife, Rebecca, came with me and like a couple of teenagers we hired a camper van and went exploring. Because it was winter many of the sites we visited were delightfully quiet and peaceful. One of the most unusual places was Wai-O-Tapu Park. It has all of the ingredients you might expect from a beauty spot; unspoilt rocks, ferns, and trees nestled around lakes. What makes this place remarkable are the weird colours. The glooping escape of geothermal gasses through mud and hissing geysers have upset the colours you would expect to see. Soil is white, rocks are orange and water is bright green or red. There is something wonderfully unsettling about seeing what is familiar in a startlingly different way.
The day after the birth of Jesus Christ, the houses of Bethlehem, the harbours of the Mediterranean and trade routes of the Middle East all looked the same. But for Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and Magi everything was startlingly different. God’s familiar creation was now represented in a new and unsettling way. Jesus is baby just like any other, yet his birth, life, death and resurrection reveal Gods new creation. God reframes the entire universe from him, through him and for him.
When we visit him at Christmas we are invited to see ourselves and the whole world in startlingly new and different colours.
I wish you a peaceful and colourful Christmas.
Christmas message from The Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford. PDF version available below.