It is a time of joy and peace

December 20, 2017

Reverend Geoff Leslie of the Seymour Baptist Church.

Dave Wood, the new Presbyterian pastor for Seymour, Nagambie and Yea, with wife Amanda.

Pastor Geoff Leslie, Seymour Baptist Church

In America, they are just as likely to say Happy Holidays as Happy Christmas, and that will probably catch on here, being driven by the changes we experience as the Western world becomes less Christianised.

Some people see it as necessary in order to be politically correct: we must not insult non-Christians by assuming they will be celebrating the birth of Jesus, we must (somehow) make Christmas secular. And that in turn makes some Christians mad — how dare they allow other festivals or special days to muscle in on our religion’s holiest day?

Because, of course, Christmas started out as a celebration to be held in churches by Christian people who wanted to observe annually the wonder of the birth of Jesus Christ. But it was so joyful that other people have wanted to get in on the act. People of no religion or other religions see how much fun we have and wish they could celebrate Christmas, too. It is contagious!

Jewish people have elevated their traditional Festival of Lights, Hannukah, to become more like Christmas. There are Midsummer festivals, or sometimes Islam’s Ramadan gets caught up in it.

In modern secular Japan, I’m told, they go crazy for all the lights and presents and trimmings but come December 25 they go back to work — they don’t actually observe Christmas Day.

In America, some people created an African-American festival called Kwanzaa to cash in on the season. In Australia, there are many concerts and events around our country designed to draw on the energy and joy.

And of course there is the enormous hype of the commercial side of Christmas — all the carols, the lights, the gifts, the trees, the cards, the decorations, the wrapping paper, the puddings and bon-bons and turkeys ...

Now I know many sincere Christians complain that all such celebrations have hitched on to Christmas like fleas on a kelpie; that these other holidays and cultural events are wrong, or distracting, or are dangerous rivals to the holy celebration of Christ.

I don’t think so. I hope people enjoy it and keep calling it Christmas so we preserve the most important thing: the first six letters. It is the power of Jesus, the astonishing claim that in that baby, the Creator became human flesh, entered our race to redeem us and help us — that is what generates the joy and the wonder. I think there is enough spilling out to go around.

I binge on carol singing at this time of year, and a couple of times lately at community celebrations, while the clouds turned pink with the setting sun and the galahs winged homeward overhead, I saw serenity and hope on peoples’ faces. I thought, here we are 2017 years later, still finding communities brought together by the birth of that baby. It’s a fresh nativity, Gods spirit comes again, the ancient power works its miracle again.

This is not about time off from work, it’s Christmas in our community.

Pastor Dave Wood, Seymour and Nagambie Presbyterian Church

One could easily be forgiven for thinking that Australia has moved into a post-Christmas era. In days gone by Christmas was a time for family unions and re-unions, when living rooms were rich in camphor and tinsel, and when exchanged gifts were precious tokens of love and friendship.

The shepherd’s star atop the pine tree kept vigil over grandpa, in the comfort of the lounge, as he told timeless stories in winsome tones to grandchildren sitting at his feet.

But in our modernity and amid the mayhem of life, something significant about our world seems to be shifting. Christian instruction is shunned in schools, nativity scenes are banned from malls, prayer in parliamentary sittings is gasping its last breath, and now, even Christmas day itself is blurring into an ambiguous festive or family season.

It’s as though a timeless tradition has fallen prey to a malevolent power that seeks to hide that which is wholesome and useful to our race.

What ever happened to Christmas? Is it now reduced to a public holiday and a few presents?

To consider answers to these questions we must begin by asking ‘What is at the heart of the Christmas event?’ December 25 is the day, our calendars remind us, on which the Saviour Jesus Christ was born. Most of us know that it’s not the precise anniversary, but it is the date when the birth of Jesus is celebrated.

But that invites yet another question — why is this so important?

It all began after God fashioned Adam and Eve from the dust of the earth. Surrounded by every good thing from the hand of God they rebelled and disobeyed the sovereign ruler of the universe.

Having threatened them with the pain of death on the day of their sin, God in his great mercy kept them alive and instead promised that a redeemer would come.

That redeemer came just 2000 years ago and it turned out to be the son of God himself. After millennia of prophecy about his coming, the son of God came as a human being — Jesus — beginning his earthly life, as do all others, as an infant in a cradle.

If not for God’s mercy in promising this gift, none would have been kept alive.

If not for Christ coming into the world to pay for sin, none would see heaven.

If not for Jesus’ love for his people, driving him to his own death, none would see God.

No, Christmas is not dead. Some may shun the truth, push Christ aside, and ignore God on this special day. But Christmas cannot be buried under a bushel and hidden out of sight.

The light of this world cannot be snuffed out.

We wish you joy and peace as you remember the birth of Jesus the Saviour this Christmas, and that he was born to die so that all who believe in him would not perish but have eternal life.

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