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What Good is Christmas?

Mal Fletcher
Posted 14 December 2004
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Does Christmas serve any useful purpose any more? Once upon a time, in an age of far less religious pluralism and cultural diversity, Christmas had significance to our sense of who we were.

Christmas meant something to our identity, not just in terms of our culture but in relation to our humanity.

Christmas was a celebration of the time when God came to earth in human form. The child born in a lowly manger that starlit night was God becoming one of us.

Christmas reminded us that human beings are the most precious creatures in God's natural order, for God himself had become human. No matter what struggles we faced throughout the year as individuals, families, communities or nations, the Christmas season reminded us that human beings are of inestimable value. God the Son had given his human life to redeem our fallen potential.

In those bygone days, Christmas also defined the foundations of our civilization. Western societies were built largely on the core values passed on to us from Jesus himself.

Of course, the institutional church who claimed to represent Christ failed society at various times along the way. Sometimes, the church lost touch with the meaning of its creed. Yet, the worst excesses always seemed to be overcome by true people of faith who actually practiced the faith they espoused.

Along the way, the Christmas season always allowed us an important chance to reflect, on the eternal truths which came to be embodied by that small child born in a cow shed.

Today, it's a different story. We claim no longer to base our societal values on Christian principles. Society is secularised. We think ourselves more enlightened than our forebears; we have no need of absolute truth to act as our moral or spiritual compass, for we can make things up as we go along.

We have less and less time for the real child of the Christmas story -- and even less for the man he became. We prefer to talk of Father Christmas then Father God. We decorate trees that shimmer and glow, but think nothing of another tree which became the destiny of the Christmas child.

These days we'd rather sing about jingling bells and snow-rides on sleighs, than offer songs of worship and thanksgiving for the greatest gifts in life.

The awe of the true Christmas spirit is lost to many of us and we see only a dim reflection of that awe in the wonder-filled eyes of our children. We've grown up, we say, we've moved beyond a belief in God and his miracle-working Saviour of the world.

So, what use is Christmas any more? Wouldn't we all be better off saving our hard earned money, protecting our credit limits and getting on with life, without all the fuss? Or, should we hang onto Christmas merely as an excuse to gather family and friends and share the ritual of gift giving?

Some people among the literati and bureaucratic classes would even have us believe that any reference to the Christian side of Christmas is offensive to non-Christians in a multi-cultural society.

In defiance of the secular humanist elites, even non-believers are speaking up to say that we should protect Christmas and its links to the Bethlehem story. (The self-appointed cultural police take offence because they know that child in a manger is dangerous to everything they hold dear.)

Why do people, Christian and non-Christian alike, want to hold onto Christmas and its Christian links? Because even for non-believers, Christmas represents something good for families, communities and societies in the midst of an often evil world.

Christmas would have no power were we to separate it from its Christian links.

Christmas is a peaceful season, because Christ is the greatest of all peace-givers. Christmas is such a merry time because the supernatural advent of Christ brought a message of hope to the world. Christmas is a season to celebrate family because Christ taught us to know God first as a Father, not a Judge. Christmas is a season for giving because God gave up His Son on the altar of his love for us.

Without its links to Christ, Christmas would cease to be a time for true compassion, sinking instead under the weight of greedy consumerism. Without its links to Christ, Christmas would cease to be a time for thanksgiving and positive reflection and would expire under the heavy hand of self-indulgence.

Without Christ, Christmas would die and the world would be immeasurably poorer for it. If Saint Nicholas were here today, he would most certainly agree -- Jesus gave the greatest of all gifts. The season belongs and will always belong to him.

Have a wonderful and wonder-filled Christmas!

© Mal Fletcher 2004

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