A virgin will conceive and give birth to a son - Fourth Sunday of Advent (A)

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The celebration of Christmas is the most evocative cultural event in our year. Nobody can escape something of its significance, even those totally distant from Christianity. Whether it be through the Christmas work function, the giving of gifts, receiving of a Christmas card, or attending a family luncheon on the day, no one can escape the significance of Christmas. Christmas is an event commemorated one way or another by all Australians. This, of course, is due to the Christian heritage of our nation.

Modern Australia owes its origins to the English who settled the land previously solely the domain of an ancient nomadic people. European settlement brought with it the Christian faith. This Christian faith in embedded in our culture.

Sadly today Christmas has become a cultural battlefield. Edicts are being issued that commercial premises are not to include traditional Christian carols in their muzak. Cribs are not allowed to be featured in store displays. Schools in Victoria are not sing Christian based Christmas carols. The greeting “Happy Christmas” is to be replaced with “Happy Holiday”. There is a relentless push for a radical Political Correctness that seeks to deny all reality to this event. It is an effort undo an historically self-evident truth. It is a miserly attempt to deny that Christianity has shaped the culture of Australia.

Christmas in its beauty, magic and wonder is to become so banalised that it loses all that it offers to the human spirit. It is to become simply a commercial opportunity and a nice holiday.

Our culture is being bleached of all colour. Our children are being numbed into a dull self-focus whereby they are absorbed merely with receiving presents. If Christmas does not take a young child to the crib, then the child is robbed of a moment to be drawn into a world of wonder, and able to touch something deep about the beauty of human life. Their eyes are lowered to the material and the carnal. We are robbing our children of something that can lift their minds to beautiful things.

Human life needs more that parties and presents. Human life needs to be nurtured at the level of the spirit. Human life needs to be drawn beyond the shallow surface of daily things, to what really nourishes it. Human beings desire even just short moments of joy, of peace, of wonder. The human spirit yearns for something which beyond it. The human spirit longs ultimately for the Transcendent, and children above all are able to walk the passages of the mystical.

Let the little children come to me, says the Lord, for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.

Let us not allow Christmas to be so robbed of its beauty and wonder that we are all impoverished, and our society has somehow become colder and more joyless.

We have a mission as Christians to restore the celebration of Christmas to what it really is. We need to sing our carols which stir even the coldest of hearts. We need to decorate our homes not just with lights and trees but with the crib in a central place. We need to tell our children of the story of Christmas, lest they forget.

Has the world grown so cold, so calculating, so ideologically driven, that we are not even allowed a moment to be touched and moved?

It seems it is now that the Church can only offer a John the Baptist message: a voice crying in the wilderness. The Church echoes a voice that says to the people, can you not see God is coming? God is coming to save. A virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, God is with us.

This is the wonder of Christmas – God has come to save. God has leapt from the heavens and embraced the earth. The sadness of human life vanishes in this supreme act of merciful love.

Let us not, God’s faithful, allow this Christmas to be the perfunctory performance of religious duties, but let this Christmas become a joyous mission for us. We will celebrate our faith not only in the Church, but in the home, and where we can, on the streets. Our houses will be declarations that a saviour has been born to us. Our greetings will be faithfilled joyous proclamations that our time of servitude is over. Fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers will invite young children to come to the crib and they will let them discover the wonder of the birth of the Son of God.

Let us allow Christmas in all its beauty and joy to live in our hearts and flow from our lips. Christmas in its hope and promise will be celebrated in our hearts, in our lives, among our families and in our homes.

The Sacred Text declares to us today: Behold a virgin will conceive and bear a son; and his name will be called Emmanuel.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 17 December 2016