The Daily Telegraph’s poll yesterday announced that over 70% of people will not attend any religious service this Christmas. I am surprised by this. In years gone by, even the most non-believing people would line the aisles in churches at Christmas – it was what you did, as much a part of the traditions of Christmas as roast turkey and family.
Today it seems, not so much.
In Colorado it is politically correct to wish others Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. No reference to religion. Schools are devoid. It’s a shame. To me, Christmas is not the same unless there are kids with stuffed lambs being belted around a hall with wooden crooks while the chief angel trips over her dress on her way to the manger, featuring a rock solid plastic doll. It is fun for all, and for some it means something very special.
In Australia my brother, sis-in-law and their sons live in an area with a high muslim population. Yet their public school still has a nativity play every year, and it’s a great sign of the understanding and mutual respect that muslim kids carry some of the roles. To their families it’s a story, nothing more, and while Islam recognises Jesus, to them the man is just a human. Of course to Christians He is much more. Ultimately, the people are a community who respects each other’s beliefs and has no problem with being wished a Merry Christmas, just as my sis-in-law says they all observe the muslim faith’s larger celebrations.
The irony is that for true diversity within our society and the tolerance that it must include to be wholeheartedly realised, we shouldn’t be watering down our treatment of cultural and religious events, but rather be understanding and supporting their celebration – and recognising their importance to those who appreciate them the most.
Yesterday’s newspaper, alongside the poll stating most people would not be attending a religious service, was a full page written by Dr George Pell on the true meaning of Christmas for christianity. It was fantastic to see, and I’d love for the muslim population to have the same treatment for their holidays. Media’s role includes the promotion of education and understanding. Ignoring these religious events fearing offending people who do not share the belief makes no sense. Muslim people I know are not threatened by Christmas, just as I am not threatened by their religious celebrations.
In fact we can all find points of resonance and community through these events.
This Christmas I wish you all tidings of comfort and joy, as my family is experiencing this year. There is no greater love than that which can provide you with those two things. I remain grateful. Whatever your religious belief, spiritual journey, or lack thereof, I hope you are able to appreciate the essence of the season. And if you are someone who remembers Christmas as a time that included a visit to church, why not try it again this year? I reckon you’ll find a seat and they’ll be very glad to see you.