PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE on Christmas Eve
(Translations of te reo Māori words, below, are from Maori Dictionary)
We wait in the quiet of this whare kōwhanga
for the whānautanga of a new day,
a new beginning—we hope—for all people.
It is not a silent thing, this quiet:
for in it are echoes, memories, questions.
It is a quiet reverberating with the music of the spheres,
with the vast energetic everythingness of space.
We wait in the openness, putting on hold activity and preoccupation—
a brief but necessary pause between panting breaths, amid the pain and messiness of labour.
And it is not a solitary thing, our mahi.
We are surrounded by a birthing team, a cloud of witnesses, a heavenly host
midwives, doctors-on-call, security staff and gift shop attendants
and our whānau of shepherds and wise ones, myth-makers and storytellers, light-bearers and road-straighteners
each with gifts and tasks, helping us bring forth the Loving Kingdom.
We hold in our hearts this night, families forced to seek refuge with sometimes hostile neighbours; those for whom a hay-filled stable would be luxury compared with life on the street or in detention camps.
We think of those for whom the season of celebration means stealthy escape to women’s refuge; children taken into foster care by strangers: police or social workers; little ones who’ve never owned first-hand clothes or a toothbrush or a book.
We think of those for whom the festive season brings the anniversary of tragedy: loved ones lost on the roads or at the beach, through suicide or violence. We hold in our hearts those who will be alone for the first time this year, following a partner’s death, loss of a child, divorce or relocation to a different town or living space.
And we think of those struggling to resist thoughtless proffering alcohol; those with eating disorders, expected to over-indulge as part of the celebrations; those with social anxiety who’d rather be anywhere than in a crowd.
As we wait in the busy quiet, for the birth of new life and the rebirth of Light
we are not alone. We give thanks for those who went before us,
living the change, smashing glass ceilings, loving their enemies and speaking truth to power!
We give thanks for this gathered community
and for companions—near and far—on the star-lit path
who encourage and inspire us to rebirth the Light: ao-mārama
and embody with us the symbol and the Word made flesh:
manaakitanga, aroha, salaam, shalom.
te reo Māori : the Māori language
whare kōwhanga : birthing house
whānautanga : birth
mahi : work, occupation
whānau : (verb) to be born, give birth; (noun) extended family, family group
ao-mārama : world of life and light, Earth, physical world
manaakitanga : hospitality, kindness, generosity, support – the process of showing respect, generosity and care for others
aroha : affection, sympathy, charity, compassion, love, empathy