In interview with Olivia Witney, Murray bears witness to the ways in which God has shaped his life and his leadership across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors, most recently as Wellington City Missioner. The stories he recounts—of God’s faithfulness and provision, and of a renewed vision for serving the most vulnerable people of the city—are nothing short of stunning. But, in the midst of all this, Murray talks about a relationship with God “that’s become simple and clear.” “God’s got a plan”—a fitting testimony in this Advent season.
We’ve recognised that many of our readers are enjoying the long-form interviews—they’re striking a chord with you. So, for this issue of Common Ground, we’ve made Murray’s interview the centrepiece. And we’ll be continuing to bring you more long-form interviews in the year to come.
There’s a dullness that creeps into the imagination at this time of year. The tinsel starts sticking to the plainest of products, the packaging turns positively baroque, and jingling bells start syncing with the shopping trolley’s wheels. When it comes to Advent, it can often seem like the treasures of this time—the declaration that God has a plan, that creation is being renewed, that death has been swallowed up by God’s victory in Jesus—are smothered under layers of kitsch commercial wrap and tied with the year’s frayed ends. But there’s nothing dull or kitsch about Athanasius’s On the Incarnation. In this month’s From the Tradition, Nathan McLellan opens up this ancient, bracing text for us—the restorative reading we need.
Alongside Athanasius, you’ll find other aids to the Advent imagination from our friends Waiora Te Moni and Mark Edgecombe. Wry, witty, and observant, it’s all there: from family traditions and delicately balanced Monopoly games to Mariah Carey, fruit cake, and failed Christmas trees. Enjoy with a quiet glass of gratitude and let “the magnitude of it all to somehow sink in,” as Mark puts it. And, once you’re done, there’s the Advent Playlist for 2023—Venn staff picks compiled by Charlotte Ennor—you’re welcome.
Finally, in place of our usual Monthly Practice, we’re bringing you a reflection by long-time friend of Venn, Sarah Williams. Sarah meditates on the life of Anna the prophetess who appears in the early chapters of Luke’s gospel. Anna’s appearance is brief—just four sentences—but, with Simeon, she is one of the earliest witnesses to the unfolding of God’s plan in Jesus. Sarah reflects on her life of faithful anticipation of Jesus’s coming, and she challenges us to ask: will my life, like Anna’s, bear witness to God’s redemption?
Friends, as you step through these first weeks of the Christian year and prepare again to celebrate Christ’s birth, may these gifts here be food for the journey, surprising you again with news of God’s good plan.
Ngā mihi nui,
Dr John Dennison