20 December 2007

Happy ______!

I have a good idea what's going to fill my children's Christmas stockings. But I'm not sure what's going to fill the spiritual vacuum in our country this Christmas. For nearly a hundred years now, 'the powers that be' have been chipping away at our Christian heritage.

I'm now 50. Neither me nor my parents were churchgoers, but our year was shaped by Christian Festivals ‐ Advent, Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter and so on. Jesus Christ occupied a place in our national conscience, and although we took him, and much of what he stands for, for granted, yet he was a welcome influence in our lives. I don't think that could be said today.

Most of the Christian festivals have gone, and even the ones that remain have pretty much been emptied of their Christian content ‐ Easter is chocolate and bunnies; Christmas is Santa, decorations, presents and a feast.

My question is this: Who or what is going to fill the blank? Who is going to take the place that Christ Jesus has rightly occupied in our lives (both at the personal and national level)?

Because we can be sure the place he occupied will be taken by someone. History tells us that when we create a spiritual vacuum, we are not left with nothing. The vacuum - the blank – gets filled with something else. Well, the options are ancient. They really fall into two main types.

The first is the mistaken idea that we can satisfy ourselves with material things. That's what most of us do now at Christmas. In the place of Christ, we have put 'personal pleasure'. That's what our day is really about. And it may go some way to satisfying our physical appetites (but only for a short time). But it goes no way toward satisfying our souls. Spiritually, we are left starved.

The second option is to replace the living and true God with idols – manmade and make‐believe gods. These are the religions of the world, ancient and modern. We exchange the truth of God found in Jesus Christ... for a lie.

I guess for a time we may enjoy the novelty, and think we're being very clever. But the heritage we're leaving our children is either terrible confusion or worse‐ our personal lives and national life under the influence of false and harmful spiritual powers and authorities.

To replace Christ Jesus is to invite nothing but trouble and misery for ourselves and our children. So it's a wonder how quick we have been to abandon the one who came to save us, who loved us even to the point of sacrificing his own life in order to secure eternal life for us with God. It's tragic to see a nation losing its grip on the good way of life he teaches us to live ‐ the way of love, truth, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, self‐control, and selfless service of others.

Maybe this Christmas is the time to say sorry to him, for abandoning him. Maybe this 'Christmas is the time to humbly invite him to take his rightful place in our lives, as our Saviour and our King.

But I'll leave you to fill in the blank for December 25th – "Happy_____!"

Simon Smallwood
Vicar of St George's