Christmas near and far

There are lots of economics and domestic public policy issues one could write about, even just ones from the last few days:

  • the Wellington City Council harassing hairdressers offering customers a Christmas glass of champagne,
  • the imminent passing of highly convenient bags from our largest supermarket chain, all because the Prime Minister and her mates apparently can’t tidy up themselves,
  • the large increase in the minimum wage, and an erstwhile centre-right commentator who seems to believe (a Matthew Hooton tweet) that this will boost productivity and economic wellbeing,
  • the advert for a new Secretary to the Treasury,
  • the impact of proposed new bank capital requirements on interest rates (hint: small), or
  • the repeated and systematic failures of the Immigration New Zealand arm of MBIE.

But it is Christmas Eve, so no economics today, or for the next few weeks (unless there is some particularly compelling combination of bad weather and interesting news).

Perhaps only a small minority of my readers are Christians, but tomorrow is Christmas Day and whatever the beliefs of those who now observe it in some form or another, it is a Christian festival –  one of the greatest (with Easter and Pentecost).  Since some 95 per cent of my readers are from New Zealand, Australia, the United States or the United Kingdom, I’m assuming almost all of you will, in one form or another, be celebrating Christmas.

Plenty of citizens of the People’s Republic of China are Christian too – tens of millions of them by most estimates.  The regime does its best to domestic, sinify, or even eliminate Christianity.   They attempt to portray Christianity as somehow un-Chinese –  heedless to the origins of (say) Marx and Lenin, and unbothered by the fact that Christianity has a much longer history in China than the Communist Party does.  But, in many ways, they are right: Christianity isn’t Chinese, it isn’t British, or French, or Kenyan, or Samoan, or New Zealand.  It is a gospel –  good news –  that transcends boundaries of culture, race or whatever, and involves a higher loyalty than to any earthly ruler or authority.  And that is the real problem for the Chinese Communist Party, as it was for the Nazis or the Soviet Communists before them.  It is a radical creed –  these were Mary’s words

Luke 1:46-55 King James Version (KJV)

46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

….

50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

When you wake tomorrow, as you celebrate Christmas in your own way over the next few days (twelve of them!), perhaps you might consider sparing a thought, or a prayer if you pray, for Wang Yi, the pastor of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu (a major city in south-west China) and his congregation.

Wang Yi hasn’t been a Christian all his life.  Less than 15 years ago, a publication in China was lauding him as one of the top “public intellectuals” in China.  He was a lawyer and legal scholar.  In 2005 was converted and baptised, founding the congregation (in a Presbyterian tradition) a few years later.  The congregation has hundreds of members.   Wang Yi has been an outspoken preacher and writer.

Two weeks ago, the party-State acted, closing down the church, sealing off its building.  They arrested Wang Yi and his wife, and perhaps 100 other congregants.  There will be no open Christmas services for that congregation tomorrow, although perhaps small groups will gather in homes to celebrate this great Christian festival.

Another Christian in Chengdu …. described the scale of the operations against Early Rain as “unprecedented” but said more could be expected, adding: “I’m very lucky they haven’t found me yet.”

The Early Rain community would survive, he said, but would now go further underground.

“We will continue the gathering. The church is shut down so it’s impossible to have a big gathering, but there will be small gatherings on Sunday and on Christmas Day.”

Wang Yi, his wife and many of the others won’t even have that option.  They will wake instead in a PRC prison and although each of them will no doubt give thanks for a Redeemer come into the world – God become man in Jesus –  they’ll be isolated, perhaps taunted by guards, agents of the PRC party/State.  And wondering what further trials are to come –  the pastor and his wife already face charges (in a system with no rule of law) carrying a potential 15 year jail terms.   Because they chose to follow a call and worship, not allowing the state to dictate when or how they follow God.

You might think this is a story of no wider interest.  If it has been reported in New Zealand, the references must have been few and fleeting.  Overseas, it is a different matter.  Here are stories from such beacons of the liberal media as the New York Times and the BBC.

Wang Yi and his fellow church leaders prepared for, anticipated, persecution.  They knew the character of the regime they were dealing with.   This letter was written initially for the congregation by one of the elders  –  one of the last to be taken – just before his own arrest.  He ends

Beloved brothers and sisters, I am writing this letter in “hiding.” May you all be filled with joy in the gospel of Christ. May you welcome, filled with hope, the even heavier cross and more difficult lives that lie ahead of you.

“Christ is Lord. Grace is King. Bear the cross. Keep the faith.” This is the vision Early Rain Covenant Church received from the Lord. May we all obtain it, cherish it, put it into practice, and live it out!

And this letter was written by Wang Yi himself in advance, to be released if and when he was taken into captivity and held for more than 48 hours.  It represents his 14 decisions for how he will respond to the coming persecution, not resiling from his faith in Christ.   This is an earlier, inspiring and humbling, statement from Wang Yi.

Wang Yi doesn’t operate in isolation. Here is a statement from the association of Presbyterian churches of which his congregation is a part, including these extracts.

Please pray for the members behind bars. May the Lord grant them confidence and strength so that they would be as bold as Paul and Peter to preach to the kings and prisoners about Christ who died and was raised.

Please pray for the members who are frightened and for those who have been released but are still being monitored. May the Lord keep them, whether free or bound, from losing heart, so that they may testify to the true, trustworthy, and glorious gospel before their family, neighbors and law enforcement.

Please pray for the members who are facing pressure to sign the pledge not to attend the church. May the Lord guide them through the Holy Spirit in all circumstances so that whether they turn left or right, they will hear the voice that says “that is the right way,” so that they can walk in it.

In this episode, as so many others (whether around Xinjiang, the Falun Gong, or abroad), we see something of the true face of the Chinese Communist Party and the brutal regime it controls.    And yet officeholders in our country (and others) cosy up to the regime (boasting of their good relationships), scared to name evil, cowering without principle.

If you were so motivated, you might wish to register your concern about this persecution –  as so many others –  with the PRC Embassy in New Zealand.   Here is the face in New Zealand of an evil regime.  Here are their contact details.

I pray for Wang Yi, his wife, the elders and congregation, in prison or in hiding tomorrow.   My confident hope, as I’m sure theirs is too, is a verse perhaps not often read at Christmas, one day

Philippians 2:10-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As Wang Yi has put it, quoted in the New York Times article I linked to earlier, “There is no eternal power [on earth], there is only eternal faith.”  One day the CCP will be, in Kipling’s words, at one with Nineveh and Tyre.

This was Martin Luther’s firm assurance, reflected in one of the great Christian hymns

A safe stronghold our God is still,
A trusty shield and weapon;
He’ll help us clear from all the ill
That hath us now o’ertaken.
The ancient prince of hell
Hath risen with purpose fell;
Strong mail of craft and power
He weareth in this hour;
On earth is not his fellow.

And though they take our life,
Goods, honor, children, wife,
Yet is their profit small;
These things shall vanish all:
The City of God remaineth!

One of Wang Yi and his congregants facing persecution –  and who knows what else –  this Christmas.

17 thoughts on “Christmas near and far

  1. Here’s one especially for Mark, also from Kipling:

    “As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!”

    Merry Christmas and God Bless All.

    Like

  2. Hi Michael

    All the very best to you and your family this Christmas. I recently heard Jim on RNZ ‘the panel’ with a couple of guests interview Spanky Moore, the chaplain at Canterbury University, asking for his thoughts on Christmas.

    Spanky it seems is something of a character. He reflects on what Jesus would say to a group of people 2,000 years on from his birth who were having a meal to celebrate the day, but didn’t really believe in him.

    It was both amusing and poignant. Hopefully of interest to people of faith, and those of no faith.

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018676690

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful, thoughtful post, Michael. I’ll write to the lady in the link. Thanks for that idea.

    Nothing speaks to me more than this song at this time of year;

    If we never lose faith, we will never lose hope.

    Merry Christmas to everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Emperor Winnie the Pooh will be a footnote in history and Christianity will still be widely practiced in China.

    Christianity teaches us love and forgiveness whereas the Communist Party of China was founded in envy and built on hatred and murder.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In old Chinese, we say 寧為玉碎 不為瓦全 (Ning Wei Yu Sui, Bu Wei Wa Quan). The direct English interpretation is “Would rather be a jade broken than a tile unscathed. “ It honors those who would rather die in glory than live in disgrace.

    Chinese people also believe “Good prevails over evil”. God will eventually eliminate the evil CCP for its persecution to the Chinese people who are determined to their beliefs.

    Michael, wish you and your family Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. “” He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. “” Now that is radical. Stronger than Marx’s “” From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs “”

    As an avowed atheist I do agree with an Australian Muslim cleric who several years ago said leaving Christ out of Christmas is not multi-culture, it was no-culture.
    I pray but I don’t know who to for the innocent people imprisoned for their beliefs everywhere.
    A happy Xmas to everyone and especially the Christians.

    Like

    • Given that the Koran does recognise Jesus Christ as a messenger of God, most muslims do not object to a Christmas celebration. It is really only idiots like our current Speaker of the NZ parliament, Trevor Mallard, that decides that references to Jesus needed to be censored out of the parliamentary prayer or our previous human rights commissioner, Susan Devoy who wanted to abolish references to Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Michael, many thanks for this note and more generally your incisive and thoughtful comments through the past year. It’s a great time of the year for reflection and being thankful and I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas. Peter

    Liked by 3 people

  8. This verse seems apt at this time:

    John 1:19-23 New King James Version (NKJV)
    A Voice in the Wilderness
    19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

    20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

    21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”

    He said, “I am not.”

    “Are you the Prophet?”

    And he answered, “No.”

    22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

    23 He said: “I am

    ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
    “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’

    as the prophet Isaiah said.”

    Merry Christmas Michael and thank you again for your excellent posts throughout the year – a beacon of sanity.

    Like

  9. Merry Christmas Michael and All. Faith, however is the problem to begin with. Faith that my beliefs are better than yours, my imaginary friend is more powerful and benevolent than yours. Demanding praise and sacrifice as ‘he’ watches us, even while we sleep, convicting us of thought crime without trial. Less faith please this Christmas. You pray for me but I’ll try and think for you. Otherwise a great blog on economics and geopolitics, both laced with belief. Not trolling, just expressing an opinion to the counter and fully expecting to be moderated out of the comments section as though I am reporting on the treatment of Irish children by Catholic clergy. Looking forward to the next post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. From Las Vegas, USA, Merry Christmas to you and your family. Have a wonderful holiday!!

    On a New Zealand passport we do not need a US Visa but we need to apply for a Visa Waiver online prior to the travel. It must be done before 72 hours prior to travel. Our new passports have the background curvies way too dark and it interfered with the scanned image reader and it took me 6 scan attempts before I realised I had to photoshop and lighten the background curvies before the ESTA Visa Waiver program accepted my scanned passport.

    On arrival at LA in transit you had to queue. Plan for at least a 2 hour queue to clear US customs and border control before you can collect your baggage. Note that there is no automatic baggage transfer to your next flight to Las Vegas. Lots of panic and rushing around to get to Vegas. But it’s been fun since then.

    Like

  11. Merry Christmas Michael. I hope you and your family have a good break. We are all richer for your contribution to the public discourse. I regularly appreciate your courage in the topics you choose. Take care. Andrea.

    Like

    • I think Chris Finlayson would be up for some recognition having settled more than 60 plus Maori settlement claims. However what it also means is that with the $60 billion now in the hands of Maori Iwi groups, they are a substantial financial force in NZ. Most of this $60 billion is invested in agriculture and farming with Maori owning 50% of the fisheries quota. The rest is invested in tourism.

      Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi is in a privileged position with only 2 parties to the bi party Treaty, Maori and the British crown on behalf of British new settlers.

      Under MMP, with Maori guaranteed 7 Maori seats virtually guarantee Maori incredible influence as to who will form the government and as a result control of government.

      Agriculture and tourism need a market and as a result China’s 1.5 billion people is a huge influence on Maori decision making. NZ will not be making waves when Maori’s $60 billion is at risk.

      Like

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