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I have been quiet for a while. There have been no spare words at the end of the day and as a result I haven’t written anything here for a few months. I have so much I want to write about and a lot of catching up to do. Having time to relax, think, and write is a real luxury and I am looking forward to getting back into my blogging over the next few weeks while I am on holiday.

I’ve decided to start with what is uppermost on my mind and slowly work my way through all those notes I have jotted down, and all those blog postings I have started and not finished.

For a number of years now I have become aware that Christmas is no longer what it once was. The emphasis has changed from a religious celebration of Christ’s birth to a secularised and commercialised celebration that tends to equate to partying, giving of presents, time off work, holidays, Santa, etc. This is not all bad, and I am not a party pooper, but somehow what is happening
feels wrong on a number of levels.

People don’t seem happy – this is meant to be a joyous celebration. People appear more stressed than usual. People seem like they just want it all over and done with for another year. Worst of all people seem to have forgotten the reason for the season.

Christmas is about Christ whether people want to acknowledge this or not.

• noun (pl. Christmases) 1 (also Christmas Day) the annual Christian festival celebrating Christ’s birth, held on 25 December. 2 the period immediately before and after this.
— ORIGIN Old English, Mass of Christ
Souce: AskOxford.com

There are some significant messages associated with the true meaning of Christmas and, more than ever, I believe these messages need to be heard yet we are busy diluting them, and trying to disguise them, thereby missing the point altogether.

In our politically correct world we don’t dare refer to the Christian links and messages associated with Christmas in case we may offend someone. What about the rights of people to believe what they choose to believe. If it helps them get through their day then who are we to judge them? Maybe, just maybe, if we listened we might learn something that might help us in some way. If you want to see conversation stop dead try bringing up anything to do with the spiritual aspects of Christmas. Start talking about peace, love, charity, hope, spirit, and watch the reaction. Eyes start to roll. There is this deathly silence. People look embarrassed. Someone will inevitably try to change the topic. It has become very dangerous territory to admit that you believe in Christ, that you go to Church, or to discuss one’s spiritual beliefs in any way shape or form; especially at work.

Yet we are expected to be more aware of others and more tolerant. Does that mean we must quell our own beliefs in the process?
Have we learnt nothing from history? Why are we like this? I realise I am probably very idealistic; however, I believe there is room for all of us on this planet. We don’t need to all have the same beliefs but we do need to respect one another as people and learn to live with each other peacefully.

Interestingly, U2 have been spreading a similar message in their Vertigo Tour with their coexist message and sign which contains a Muslim crescent symbol representing the “C”; the Jewish Star of David, the “X”; and the Christian cross, the “T”.

U2 and their coexist message

Coexist Lyrics by U2
Some grafitti was written up on a wall not too far from here
It says coexist
Jesus, Jew, Mohammed, it’s true
Jesus, Jew, Mohammed, it’s true
All sons of Abraham
Father Abraham,
Father Abraham Where are you now
Father Abraham, look what you’ve done
You’ve pitted your son against your son
Father, Father Abraham
No more, no more, no more
No more, no more, no more
No more, no more, no more
No more, no more

Anne Aitken, raises some interesting points in this article she wrote for the Waikato Times entitled Protecting Christian heritage:

Have you noticed that Christmas is coming?
You could hardly miss it with all the retail promotions, the parades, decorations and Christmas-related events. There is not much, however, about it being a Christian celebration of the birth of Christ the saviour, bringing peace and goodwill to all.

At least we still call it Christmas though, and have a passing acknowledgement of the event being celebrated. In some cities in the UK, local councils have tried to take the Christ out of Christmas altogether –- because it could be offensive to Muslims. Some of them have renamed it “Winterval”.

This is taking the notion of being a secular state way too far and has succeeded in offending both Christians and Muslims alike. It does, at least, spark debate on the meaning of Christmas.

As any student of history will tell you, a key strategy in effective colonisation of a people is the absorption and conversion of indigenous religious festivals to the colonising religion.

Over time Christmas has gained ascendancy over the other traditional festivals that occur at this time of the year –- the Jewish Chanukah, the pagan winter solstice, Hogmanay (New Year) and Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus). And we, in the southern hemisphere, have added our summer holidays to the mix.

Inevitably this has led to the blurring and blending of traditions. Winter celebrations –- fake snow, spruce trees and lights mix with nativity scenes, gifts and family barbecues.

These days, Christmas is more a retail than a religious festival.

Not only are there expectations about gift giving, but also parties, feasts and winter decorations. Some retailers make most of their turnover from Christmas and there are specialist Christmas shops (not to be confused with the specialist Christian shops).

Christmas has been absorbed and converted into a secular festival, reflecting the change from a Christian to a secular state.

So why is it that changing the name to “Winterval” crosses the line and causes such offence?

Western society draws its values, political and social structures from a long history of Christian philosophies which in turn are drawn from the Greek, Roman and Jewish traditions. Our values, political and social structures are different from those based on Islamic, tribal or Asian religions.

We have separated the state from religion, but that does not separate us from our tradition. By taking the Christ out of Christmas we are denying the tradition and values behind the festival and that underpin our society.

Christmas has something for everyone –- parties, food, presents, holidays, family, religious reflection, charitable acts, peace, goodwill and a celebration of life. The parties, food, presents and holidays are empty without the Christian values they celebrate. “Winterval” reduces them to hollow and meaningless revelry and we can do that at any time of the year.

In the same way that New Zealand is experiencing a Maori renaissance as people have chosen to learn about and revive some of the traditions that were being lost, the rebellion against “Winterval” is a protection of our Christian heritage.

Even those of us who are not practising Christians need to protect our heritage so that we understand why we have laws that promote rehabilitation instead of retribution and why we provide social welfare.

We may quibble about the balance of how much retribution and how much social welfare, but we don’t debate the fundamentals; we wouldn’t see people stoned to death or have their hands cut off, or be left destitute as in other countries. These values are part of our Christian tradition.

If we were to rename Christmas, we should be really honest and name it “shoppingmas” and have an annual holiday devoted to shopping (ironically, our holiday laws would require the shops to be shut on Shoppingmas Day).

So, when you are eating and drinking too much and opening yet another pair of socks, reflect on the meaning of Christmas and do your bit for charity.

PS: I can’t help wonder how the PC brigade would take Christ and the Church out of Christchurch.

Source: Waikato Times, 15 December 2006

A classic example of this secularisation process of Christmas are the greeting cards that are traditionally sent out at this time of year; there are also endless examples of the electronic equivalents that flood our email inboxes. The messages are anything but spiritual. The words and images used are ‘safe’. We read ‘have a happy holiday’, ‘seasons greetings’ and so on. Increasingly the word Christmas doesn’t appear anywhere on the card.

Only one in 100 Christmas cards sold in Britain contains any religious imagery or message, a Daily Mail survey has revealed.

Nativity scene on a Christmas card

Traditional pictures such as angels blowing trumpets over a stable, Jesus in his manager, the shepherds and three wise men following the star to Bethlehem are dying out.

Instead, scenes of the Nativity have been replaced on cards by designs or jokes with little or no relevance to the Bible story and the true meaning of Christmas.

Source: Ian Drury, Christmas cards are losing their religious message, Daily Mail

Foreshore By Mira MiliszewskaThis is an example of a Christmas card designed by my daughter, Mira, which has been sold as a Corporate Christmas Card by Canteen, to raise money to support young people living with cancer. The emphasis here in on a typical modern day Kiwi Christmas/Summer. The Christmas tree is the only indicator that this card is associated with the celebration of Christmas. The theme of all the Canteen cards is the same – very safe!

Over the years I have had friends who have followed many different spiritual beliefs and some believed in nothing at all. This never created any problems. We accepted each other. We were all interested in our differences. We learnt from each other. Even more than this, we celebrated our differences. The world we live in now has definitely changed. A lack of acceptance of one another’s differences means that we are reverting back to a time where we must hide who we are and what we believe. An element of fear has crept back into our psyche. In the process we are denying an important part of our selves – our spiritual dimension.

Christmas in New Zealand appears to have become a frenzied period of deadlines, financial pressures, all sorts of relationship and family dramas, and added into the mix is a summer holiday. It seems to bring out not only the best in people but also the worst. As the countdown to Christmas begins earlier every year it raises more pressure on people and businesses to try to get everything completed before the Christmas shutdown. All year, and in most situations, the ultimate deadline is Christmas!

Once Christmas arrives our country literally closes down during the Christmas/New Year period, apart from the retailers. If you want to get anything done during this holiday break – forget it. You have to wait until the middle of January usually for things to start cranking up.

As December approaches the final working day before Christmas equates to the beginning of the summer holidays for many. This year even the appalling weather hasn’t dampened people’s excitement at this prospect; everyone seems exhausted and all they can think about is having a break, even if it is in the rain, wind, and cold that we are currently experiencing. All we need is for everyone to create some of Keri Smith’s instant snow and we could have a white Christmas here in the Southern Hemisphere.

Christmas to me is all about people and the traditions I share with these people. It is a time when I stop and reflect on all the things in my life that I have to be thankful for.
What is the greatest thing in the world; it is people

We have created our own blend of traditions to accommodate the different backgrounds of the members that make up our family. It is always a very special time of year for us.

Way back in October Patti Digh drew my attention to the Juan Mann story and video. I read how this impacted on her and her daughter. Patti questions why we have become so politically correct in relation to hugging as a gesture of caring and support. Her thoughts emulate some of what I have written here.

Jacques Prévert has written, “Millions and millions of years would still not give me half enough time to describe that tiny instant of all eternity when you put your arms around me and I put my arms around you.” It feels as if we have lost some vital part of ourselves in a dense primordial forest of political correctness, awkward avoidance of other humans for fear of misunderstanding or offense, or the potential of sexual harassment charges, that siren song of “appropriate behavior.” Why is a hug so fearful, I wonder. Is it that we have given up our need or our capacity for direct engagement? What fear drives our disconnect from one another?

Anyone that knows me knows I love to hug – I have been like this my whole life. I need hugs. They are my soul food. So my gift to you this Christmas is a virtual hug. I wish you a very Merry Christmas wherever you are and whatever you believe. May you be blessed with health, love, and laughter today, tomorrow, and every day ahead of you.

Let’s try and change the world together – person by person. If you do something for someone else it will be passed on to others in some way. Be there for each other – those that are sad or suffering, those you love, and those who may have lost their way and need a hand up to get going again. Human kindness is the one thing we can give that doesn’t actually cost anything because it comes from within – from your heart. Love what you have. Love yourself, and be proud of who you are.

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