December 15th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The Christ child: a life lived for the whole world

WATER RESOURCES Murray-Darling management delivers the worst of both worlds

CANBERRA OBSERVED Libs fish around for explanations

ASIAN AFFAIRS Taiwanese agree to stick with nuclear power

EDUCATION In support of NAPLAN

VICTORIAN ELECTION Coalition collapse

ECONOMICS AND SOCIETY Mondragon Corporation: humanity at work

BREXIT December 12: D-Day for Britain's EU vote

EUTHANASIA WA Government ignores objections and lessons

TAIWAN Referendum stems homosexual tide

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Free trade and the WTO in the Trump era

MUSIC Teacher teachers: The jarring note in music courses

CLASSIC CINEMA The Adventures of Robin Hood: The one and only

BOOK REVIEW A triumph of determination

BOOK REVIEW An escape from futility and addiction

POETRY

LETTERS

HIGHER EDUCATION Massification: it's the name of the game

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COVER STORY The Christ child: a life lived for the whole world

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, December 15, 2018

In secular Australia, Christmas is principally a season of giving, both to our loved ones and to those less fortunate. In this respect, it is radically different from other days of national celebration, which mark unique events in our history, like Australia Day or Anzac Day.

One aspect in which it is different is that the Christmas season is far more than an event celebrated on December 25 – although this day marks the focus of the season. It now extends from roughly the beginning of December until well into January.

No doubt commercial considerations – including buying Christmas presents and the post-Christmas sales – contribute to this, but there is more to it than that.

This is the period from Advent, the time of preparation for the coming of the Messiah, to the Epiphany, when Jesus first showed himself to the outside world.

Christmas reflects the Christian origins of our society, celebrating the birth of an apparently insignificant baby in Judea, a remote corner of the Roman Empire, over 2000 years ago.

Only one of the four gospels contains an account of the birth of Jesus, who was to die the death of a common criminal in Jerusalem about 33 years later, abandoned by most of his followers.

Obscure birth

The birth itself was noteworthy in part because of its obscurity. The Evangelist St Luke gives us an account of the birth of the baby Jesus, in a stable in the town of Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem, because, Luke tells us, “there was no room for them at the inn”.

One message of this is that, no matter how lowly a person’s origins, they can make a mark on society. In Jesus’ case, his influence is now felt across the world.

In his short three years of public ministry before his crucifixion, Jesus, a devout and practising Jew, put forward a radical reinterpretation of Judaism that, in the hands of his followers, was quickly able to escape its Jewish origins to become a universal faith that is now held by around a third of the people on earth.

The central fact that Jesus’ followers proclaimed from the very beginning was that Jesus, born of a woman, was also God.

Although Jesus’ birth was virtually indistinguishable from that of any other baby born in Bethlehem on that first Christmas Day, St Luke makes clear that Jesus’ birth followed direct intervention by God himself.

In Luke’s account, God sent one of his archangels, named Gabriel, to a virgin named Mary, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, and invited her to become the mother of God himself. In the most exquisitely beautiful words, Mary agreed: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Christians believe that every human being is a child of God in a spiritual sense. St Luke explicitly affirms that Jesus was, literally, the Son of God.

The three other evangelists, who also wrote accounts of Jesus’ life in the years after his death, affirm that Jesus proved he was God by the works he performed during his public ministry, by rising from the dead, then showing himself to his closest followers and giving them his final instructions, before returning to his Father in Heaven.

From Judaism, Christianity took the central proposition that there was only one God, creator of the heavens and earth, and everything with it. But the God that Jesus proclaimed was not a remote and distant being who set the universe in motion like a wind-up toy at the “Big Bang”, and then stepped back to watch it unfold.

Jesus proclaimed a God who was intimately familiar with every one of us: he knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. Jesus asked us to address God as “our father”, using the Aramaic word “abba”, which is the word that even today children in the area use to address their fathers.

Jesus also enjoined on his followers the obligation to love one another, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself. While this idea was contained within Judaism, in his own life Jesus applied this prin­ciple in a radical new way, culminating in his own arrest, torture and execution, which he embraced as the will of God.

In one of his prophetic utterances quoted by the Evangelist St John, Jesus expressed this both memorably and beautifully: “Greater love than this has no man, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

While Jesus laid down the foundations of personal perfection as a way of attaining the Kingdom of God, he was also acutely aware that these principles were the foundation of a just society, enjoining those in authority to exercise it in the interests of their people.

One of the great contributions of Christianity to human society has been the application of these principles to public policy, to government and to law.

It has been said that every society is held together either by force or by consent. It is the great contribution of Christianity that it has established the universal principles that bind us together
for the good of every person, singly and collectively.

That is well worth celebrating at Christmas.

Peter Westmore is publisher of News Weekly.




























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