When we compare the seemingly peaceful and tranquil scene of the first Christmas in Bethlehem to what we are experiencing at this present time, we can easily become pessimistic about the state of our world. There are many reasons for a certain pessimism. The reality of searing poverty in much of our world, the threat of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the ongoing disregard for marriage and family life. Not to mention the widespread de-Christianisation of our society, never more evident than at this time of year. Recently a Christian MP suggested that taking Christ out of Christmas was like serving turkey without any stuffing. I disagree. Christmas without Christ is like serving stuffing without any turkey! A gesture that is both empty and void without context or meaning. Rather than becoming despondent and pessimistic however Christians must live in hope. The message of hope has in recent weeks been echoed by nine of our Scottish Christian leaders who worked together to prepare a shared Christmas message, stressing that above all else the Christmas season is a time of hope - hope for all of the earth that we will see love and joy and goodness and beauty, the signs of God,s presence on earth and renew our hope that there will be peace and goodwill among all peoples. As we look to the New Year ahead we must be ready to translate these hopes into action. We must pressurise our political leaders to ensure that they are more and more aware of our international obligations to help the suffering throughout the world. We must be prepared to stand up and oppose negative legislation on marriage and family life ensuring that our legislators are observing the Laws of God. We must constantly seek the ways of peace and beat our swords into ploughshares. How can we reconcile the countless millions being spent and being promised to maintain nuclear arsenals in the face of so much abject and dire poverty throughout the world? Christmas is a time for looking beyond the evils of this present time to see goodness and beauty in those around us, to look at tragedy and see the stories of kindness and compassion that carry with them the hope of life beyond the darkness. Christ came on earth to bring us that message of peace and goodwill. While we enjoy that peace and goodwill in our own homes and in our own country at this present time may we make every endeavour to spread it to the rest of the world and all the people whom Christ came on earth to save.
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