The Albatross & The Angels
Christmas Quipper 4
“Kia whai kororia te Atua i runga rawa,
kia mau te rongo ki runga ki te whenua,
me te whakaaro pai ki nga tangata.” - Ruka 2:14
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” - Luke 2:14
A nod to Christmas is a common occurrence in Māori contexts all year round. Versions of the above verse are chanted to commence speeches all the time, though many don’t realise the origin. For Māori, it’s a reference to a time when a big white bird, an Albatross, a long way from home showed up at Parihaka, leaving behind a raukura, a feather. The symbol of the white feathers became a proclamation of Glory to God, Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Mankind.
But the original words harken from other white flying-things who sang it over shepherds 2000 years before the albatross. The angelic announcement came to these faraway farmers who left their flocks and went looking for the saviour. They found Baby-God in a wool-shed swaddled and placed in a food trough.
Neon-lit angels announced to stunned shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest!” Now whatever we might make that to mean (in any tradition of religious thought) I’m pretty sure that none of us would have ever considered that the highest and most glorious action of God would, or could ever have looked like a refugee bastard-baby in a manger. Yet when God chooses to act in the world, he does so on our terms, on vulnerable human terms, in the most powerless way.
Quintessentially, the manifold wisdom of Christmas means that no-one can point the finger at the Almighty, venting that he doesn’t know what it’s like to… Well, you fill in the blank. But God does.
Because God became one of us. And not the partner-with-2.5-kids, bach and boat version of ‘us’. He became the oppressed, suppressed and repressed version of us. The glory of God is that God is forever connected to all of our highs and despairs of human hopes and human depravity. God puts himself here so that we might know God is not distant, but with us. All of us.
And so we sing: Hope is not a rumour, heaven is not a mile away. It’s as close as the blood within my veins, steady as your stand sure Name.