NOW, on the eve of the final celebration in this millennium of the birth of the great redeemer, it is fitting - surely - to reflect on the consequences of and importance of the birth of the Holy Child almost two thousand years ago.
And the mystery of the Christian faith is how it can have been that Christ - the Son of God - should have been born to carry the load of our sins.
For believers there is no puzzle in this. God sent to earth His Son to absolve us of our imperfections. That was the burden Jesus was sent to carry, and as the embodiment of God among men, His task was to understand and to wash away the sins of men - the sins of wickedness, and cruelty, and unkindness, and greed and faithlessness.
In essence, that is the mystery of divinity. For believers it poses no difficulty, for they have an understanding sufficient unto themselves of the nature of sacrifice. Yet for non-believers, that question of how God can have wiped away sin with the death of His son remains a twig on the road of faith and they stumble upon it.
Yet to focus too much on such a reasoned way of thinking is to miss the message of love which God and his Son, Jesus Christ, ask us to accept. Ineffable, perfect and omnipotent, God and the Holy Trinity according to Christian precepts are not to be understood in worldly terms. To be saved we need understand only God's love and to question it not.
Those who struggle with that absolute concept of faith find it difficult to make that unquestioning connection with the Holy Spirit. They wonder how it can be that one man - for Christ among us was a man, according to the scriptures - be held to account for all the sins of mankind.
To that there is no answer - except love. And that is God's great gift. His gift is his love for us, and believers know it well. But those who are not persuaded that the Christian God is the fountainhead of all goodness may know love as well. All people know the effusion of love which flows from a parent to a child. All people also are aware of the wonderful sense of connection which binds them with those of whom they are fondest.
That is the gift which believers are convinced is the greatest bequest of the Holy Spirit. They believe without question in the words of the Gospel according to St John, in which he says:
"For God so loved the world that, he gave his only begotten son, so that all who believe on him may not, die but may live forever."
Yet God teaches also the messages of forgiveness and tolerance - messages which are true and valid today as they were two thousand years ago. The essence of His truth is that men may not, question His wisdom, not doubt his rule. God gave us reason that we may use it. And by reason we know that we must condemn not, hate not, and reject not.
Those are also lessons of inclusive, tolerant society Australian society.
We are privileged to live in such a community, blessed in our heritage of Christianity, which is a heritage of faith and hope and love.
Editor Steve Howard
The Daily Telegraph, Friday 24th December 1999
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