Christmas 2018

The militant atheist Christopher Hitchens asked, “Can you name one ethical statement made, or one action performed, by a believer that could not have been made by a non-believer?”

The reply is that non-believers did not say and did not do all that Christians have said and done throughout the centuries for the betterment of the human condition. Christians have been responsible for many of the best aspects of our society. Atheists take them for granted. For examples, John Howard (1726-1790) was a Calvinist Christian who founded the oldest penal reforming organisation in the world, later called The Howard League. Henry Dunant (1828-1910) was a Calvinist Christian who founded the Red Cross. Kier Hardie, (1856–1915), Founder of the Labour Party was a committed member of the Evangelical Church in Hamilton. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945), President of America from 1933 to 1945 was inspired by his personal Christianity to lead the foundation of the United Nations. Chad Varah (1911- 2001) was an Anglican priest who founded The Samaritans. Martin Luther King led the American Civil Rights Movement. Roman Catholic Lech Walesa inspired the USSR’s first independent trade union and that led to the fragmentation of the Russian communist empire. Oxfam was founded by Quakers. Christian Aid and the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development are only two of thousands of active Christian humanitarian agencies which would not exist without the inspiration of Christian Faith, based on on the teaching and example of Jesus, who himself believed in God. Atheists did not initiate any of these things. They may have copied them here and there as have other faiths and philosophies but Christians were the fore-runners, themselves following the example of Jesus. Christopher Hitchens presumed Christian teaching and example to be present for his hijacking of history. You cannot dismiss nearly 2000 years of humanitarian example and good will towards fellow human beings. Contrast the genocide of the large scale 20th century atheistic communist regimes.

Wonderful are the manufactured festivities around us at Christmas. Humans are party animals and Christmas is humanity’s greatest party. It has everything, a core message of divine love, grace and forgiveness, inspiration towards expressions of charity, encouragement to love and responsibility in family life and sharing of material expressions of affection and value. There are colourful lights in mid-winter, decorations public and private, accompanying stories and legends, make-believe, songs, films, television and pantomimes. Much food and drink is consumed. Children receive extravagant gifts. And there is of course the personification of all the jollity from central casting, Santa Claus, the 19th century invention of American poet Clement Clark Moore (‘Twas the night before Christmas…).

Paradoxically in this scientific and technological age, humans still effect temporary abandonment of reason and enact their fantasies. Cultural Christmas is a fraud with its false messages, ludicrous advertising and self-deceiving excuses. Riotous commercial imagination clutters and crowds out the simplicities of Christian Christmas.

But who believes that Jesus was the incarnation of our Maker? Who understands that this Maker is personal? Who considers that relationship between humans and this Maker is possible through Jesus? Who cares? A remnant of Christians still care and worship faithfully singing the glorious carols of the ages as yet undiminished by secular popular music. We hold the clue to Christmas in our hearts and souls. It is the joy of the resurrected, risen Jesus Christ which we experience. This is the basic truth of Christmas. ‘Still the night, Holy the night, Son of God, love's pure light, Love is smiling from thy face, Strikes for us now the hour of grace, Saviour since thou art born’

Robert Anderson 2017

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