Our hearts filled with wonder and awe
I greet you in the name of the infant saviour, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, our hearts filled with wonder and awe. I bring greetings from all at Anglican Financial Care this Christmas. We are coming to the end of an extraordinary year where our lives have been disrupted by the onset of a global pandemic. The message of hope coming to us in human form in the birth of the Christ child this Christmas is needed more than ever.
The story of Jesus’ birth as St Luke tells it, provides a lot of detail that at first glance seems quite trivial. There is reference to Emperor Augustus, Quirinius the governor of Syria, evoking the names of rulers who left indelible marks on the collective memory of the people, probably because of their ruthless use of power. We hear of Joseph having to travel with Mary to Bethlehem because he is a descendant of King David for the purpose of a census, which rulers only ever organised when they needed more tax to fund their latest project. We hear of shepherds, outsiders everyone kept away from, keeping watching over their flocks under the light of the stars, evoking a reminder of the immensity of the universe God created, and yet it is the littles ones, the poor and the marginalised who first receive the Good News. All of these details might seem peripheral, but they matter a great deal. They tell us that Love has come from the heavens to dwell with us. Love has come down from heaven entering a real world where people are living real lives.
It is, in fact, a very simple message: Love has come down from heaven to dwell among us; Love that brings joy, peace, and healing to a broken world. In the birth of Christ we see Love being lived in a real human life, a vulnerable child showing us the fullness of God; God coming to our level to speak to us in a language we can easily understand. It is Love, bringing to birth the faith and hope that the world needs so much.
The arrival of a global pandemic has created much uncertainty for many. Livelihoods and incomes remain uncertain for many. In response, world governments are spending trillions of dollars to stimulate their economies and provide their citizens with income support. As this huge expenditure is rolled out across the world, now is the time to ask our governments to use that expenditure to restructure our economies to rid the world of poverty and ensure income security for the most vulnerable, and to move us into the future with a lower carbon footprint. The message of Christmas is that all human life, and all creation, is holy and precious, capable of being filled with God. If God treats every person as holy and loveable, then every human being must be treated with reverence and respect and enabled to participate in society with dignity. If creation itself is filled with the presence of God, it behoves us all to use our influence to care for the planet. Moving our economic policy settings to take action on these matters of such importance for our future would be a wonderful gift this Christmas, a way of giving thanks to God for the gift of Jesus Christ.
Love from heaven comes to dwell with us. This Love is simply present; fragile, vulnerable, dependent, and yet more splendid than we could ever have imagined. It is this Love that motivates us to act and to care, that moves and us and stirs us to ensure all people of the world may dwell in peace, and that the well-being of the planet is looked after for the future.
May the grace and peace of God indwell you and all you love this Christmas.
Dean Lawrence Kimberley
Many of us have grown up with the stories of Winnie the Pooh. If we didn’t, some of us may have seen the recent movie called ‘Christopher Robin’ which re-introduces Winnie the Pooh to a wider audience.
Many of us would be surprised to know that Winnie the Pooh owned a gun in 100 Acre Wood. We would be puzzled as to why they would own guns in that wood as they don’t hunt, and they don’t have target practice. Yet, in one account of Winnie the Pooh’s exploits, there was a knock on the door of his tree. Winnie answered the door … with a gun in his hands.
When A. A. Milne started writing about Winnie the Pooh in 1926, it was a different time with a different attitude toward guns. Like climate change, guns and munitions have increasingly become something that people are concerned about.
After the attacks on the Al-Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch earlier this year there has been a growing concern about whether New Zealand KiwiSaver providers have invested funds in arms or munitions. There are some providers that have invested in this industry. But the Christian KiwiSaver Scheme is not one of those; it is among a small number of KiwiSaver providers that provide ethical investments and excludes munitions.
In a recent Colmar Brunton survey, over 70 percent of respondents answered that it was important for them that their KiwiSaver money was not invested in weapons. The survey found that a lot of members didn’t know if their funds were invested in munitions at all.
In New Zealand, there are over 2.7 million people signed up with KiwiSaver. The New Zealand Herald quoted a 2018 Consumer survey finding that around seven out of 10 people wanted their money invested ethically. But only around 8,600 people had signed up to specifically targeted ethical investment funds. While some people may hesitate in investing in ethical funds as they may feel these funds give lower returns, some of the best companies in the current market are those that are the most sustainable companies – they look after the environment and their employees. So thinking seems to be changing among investors.
Remember you can log into your account and check which fund your money is invested in. Or, if you prefer, give us a call on (0508) 738 473.
Winnie the Pooh image from www.disneyclips.com
Some of you are asking what’s a PIR and what’s the fuss about them? Your PIR is your Prescribed Investor Rate and this is the tax rate that applies to investment earnings in certain types of investments including KiwiSaver. Having the wrong PIR will cost you money.
There are three PIR rates: 10.5%, 17.5% and 28%. As a general rule if your taxable income is above $48,000 then your PIR should be 28%.
It’s important to have the correct PIR. If your PIR is too high then you will be paying more tax than you need to. We understand that Inland Revenue hasn’t been giving refunds in these situations. If your PIR is too low then you could be facing a tax bill.
Has Inland Revenue been in touch with you about your PIR? Earlier this year Inland Revenue identified 450,000 New Zealanders who they determined were on the wrong PIR. Inland Revenue has started contacting those who appeared to have a PIR that was too low and advising how much tax they owe.
Inland Revenue recently replaced their computer system and that means it can now check your PIR against your personal taxable income. Your PIR is based on your income. If your income changes (up or down), this might mean a change in your PIR. Your residency status can also affect your PIR.
A guide to calculating your PIR is available to help you.
You can log into your Christian KiwiSaver Scheme account and check your PIR. If you need to change your PIR then send us an email. If you’re not sure then you can phone us on 0508 738 473.
From 1 July 2019, the age 65 restriction on joining was removed and this group of New Zealanders (and permanent residents) can now join and invest in KiwiSaver.
KiwiSaver is now an investment option for New Zealanders who are 65 or older. So why join KiwiSaver at this stage of life? Well, it provides an opportunity invest into a professionally managed savings product without your money being ‘locked away’ (as is the situation for those aged under 65 except in certain circumstances). The other thing is that life expectancy is increasing meaning your savings need to work harder to last over a longer period.
Christian KiwiSaver Scheme offers members a choice of three investment funds – Growth, Balanced and Income. The Income Fund has the lowest level of risk attached to it.
Christian KiwiSaver Scheme offers its members a KiwiSaver scheme that is invested under universally accepted Christian values. Long before it became trendy we were investing our funds in an ethical and responsible way. As Christians we like to make investment choices that resonate with what we believe.
While Christian KiwiSaver Scheme does not offer its members a “pension” we can pay your savings to you as a regular income each month or quarter. The frequency is your choice. You can also withdrawal large amounts (or your whole balance) at any time. We do not currently charge a transaction fee for regular payments or other payments.
Greetings and peace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the end of another busy year, it is my pleasure and delight to wish you all a holy and blessed Christmas. This is a holy time in the Church’s year when we pause to celebrate the birth of Jesus over 2000 years ago. Jesus was born in a stable in the town of Bethlehem in very humble circumstances, and the first to offer their worship were shepherds who responded to a message from an angel who told them the Good News that a Saviour was born, the Messiah, the Lord.
People have all sorts of ways of keeping in touch with this. Some people go on tours to the Holy Land to visit Bethlehem. They come back with nativity scenes, figures of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus which they set up in their living rooms. Some bring back other reminders of the Holy Land; water from the Jordan River, or a stone that might be incorporated into a church building. Christians have been making these kinds of pilgrimages for centuries and bringing back reminders of the story to help make it a present reality for us today.
Bethlehem today is a very different place from that depicted in our carols and Christmas cards. It is surrounded by a wall designed to keep Palestinian people out of Israel. It has frequently been caught up in the violence of conflict in that part of the world. Modern-day Bethlehem is a reminder that the world is ridden with division and violence, where injustice, misuse of power and violence abound, and where those who are powerless are expected to be submissive to those with power. This reflects the way many people of the world think the Church should be as well; compelled into submission.
This is not the way of God. Jesus is the fullness of God revealed to us in a whole human life. He comes in vulnerability, as a helpless child, to be alongside us and to share our humanity. He invites us to follow him. He never attempts to force us to follow, but he comes as the fullness of God’s grace and love to win us over. He shows us that the God we worship and that Christians believe in refuses to come in force, but in humility and in love.
The carol, “O little town of Bethlehem” has this line in the first verse: “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” God is aware of the messiness of life and comes to be alongside us on our journey. God comes to dispel the darkness that we face, to be with us as we cope with the messiness of life and the difficulties we find ourselves in. God comes to open up a future laden with hope that is beyond our imagination; a future where there is justice and love. In short, God comes to give us a taste heaven. This Christmas, give your hopes and your fears to God. For Jesus is born to bring love into the world. He is with us and alongside us, working for love, peace and hope, that these gifts may be received in our hearts and in the hearts of every human being, so that all may know God’s love.
Once again, may you and yours have a holy and blessed Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
The Very Reverend Lawrence Kimberley