1 Kings 17
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By Stephen Green
First Published in Christian Voice December 2008
Ps. 33:10: The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.
11 The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
Ps. 144:15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.
2 Cor. 10:5: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Maybe it's just me, but there don't seem to be that many newspaper articles around this year bemoaning the commercialisation of Christmas. We used to have loads of them. They seem to have dwindled and been replaced by stories of an altogether more worrying kind.
These, it seems to me, fall into two camps.
CRASS AND DISGUSTING
The first type are accounts of how crass and disgusting we are becoming as a nation. I was called by two journalists in the last two weeks to comment on stories about profanity on seasonal wares; first on Christmas cards then on wrapping paper. 'Merry [expletive] Christmas', they said. And middle- aged people, not just the young, were buying them.
When the Blasphemy Laws were abolished earlier this year, I said that sowing disrespect of God would reap disrespect of each other, and so it has proved, within months. 'Sachs-gate', in which the elderly actor Andrew Sachs was abused by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, who were bragging about the former's liaison with Mr Sachs's grand-daughter, was a shocking example of the predicted coarseness actually happening, and so quickly as well. You could not imagine it just two years ago.
The addition of profanities on wrapping paper and cards is equally disturbing, and the blasphemous poetry reading earlier this month in the National Assembly of Wales topped the lot. This nation is fast losing its ability to behave in a civilised and respectful manner.
The second type are stories about how the Christian element is being taken out of Christmas to leave some sort of amorphous winter celebration, Christmas-lite, a return to our pagan past, if you like. In recent years a Christmas crib disappeared from a city centre, another town rename the Christmas lights 'festive lights' and in another, Christmas was replaced by 'Winterval'.
This year we have had a nativity play being postponed until after Christmas so that the school could celebrate the Muslim Eid instead. No Muslim wanted the nativity play to be scrapped - the head teacher took it upon herself.
Meanwhile, in Corringham, a local school choir had been practising their contribution to 'Corringham Winter Festival' for weeks. At the last minute they were told their programme of traditional Christmas carols was 'too religious'. One parent asked: 'If you cannot sing carols at Christmas, when can you sing them?' A good question, which was answered by Prudence Dailey of the Prayer Book Society: 'These politically-correct winter festivals seek to make Christmas part of a "multi-faith" mix and hark back to pagan winter solstice observance. They see Christmas as merely a local seasonal event and miss its central religious significance at the heart of national identity.'
Or maybe they don't miss t at all. Maybe they are all too well aware of it. And it is by no means a given that the Christian element is mixed in with other faiths. Often, as in Corringham, it is enough to take out the Christianity and just leave some Irish Dancers and Golden Twirlers. (I kid you not.)
Interestingly, the leader of Corringham Council said he had not learned of the row until it was too late to intervene and ensure the school could take part. He blamed council employees for the episode. Which begs the question: Is there some sort of co-ordination behind these very similar attacks on the Christianity of Christmas?
Which leads us nicely to a strange organisation called 'Common Purpose'. Common Purpose runs training courses for present and future leaders mainly in Europe but also, disturbingly, in
. Led by Chief Executive Julia Middleton, it 'develops the ability of leaders to lead beyond their authority'. It 'gives leaders the inspiration, the knowledge and the connections they need to produce real change - in their workplaces and in their communities'. 25,000 people, from companies, local authorities and charities, have already been through Common Purpose, and their association, Common Purpose 360, operates as a kind of freemasonry.
'Beyond their authority' and 'Change' will ring the alarm bells in students of Marxism. No doubt those in charge of the 'Winter Festival' in Corringham were leading beyond their authority. But 'change' is the Marxist dialectic, taken up by everyone from the lowliest board-room, police diversity unit, through Tony Blair to David Cameron to Barack Obama. No-one ever knows what we are changing to or from what. 'Change' is all that matters.
In Marxism one is constantly changing. There is a thesis, which is how things are. There is an antithesis, which how they ought to be. The stage aimed at, when the existing thesis is overturned, is the synthesis. But the synthesis is the new thesis, and so it all sets off again. And by 'positive change in society' Common Purpose mean ridding society of out-dated religious, especially Christian, ideas and mores.
A SPIRITUAL WAR
However it is happening, and whoever is bringing it all about, if it is not a conspiracy, then a whole lot of people are thinking the same things at the same time. And what they are thinking is prising this
away from its Christian spiritual anchor and indeed returning to a paganism which has not been part of the fabric of society for centuries.
Psalm 33 says the counsel and devices of the heathen will be brought to nothing, but I believe the Lord requires us to be praying this into effect, and being ready to do whatever He shows us as necessary to accomplish His purpose. Otherwise, if we cannot be bothered, He will give us over to them.
Again, the Psalms say that the nation is blessed whose God is the Lord. Obviously
is on the psalmist's mind, but the words say, 'Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord', and that promise has no limit.
would be blessed if her God were the Lord.
would be. And so on.
Our God in these islands has been the Lord Almighty for generations, but a spiritual war is being fought and we must be engaged in it. I am coming to the conclusion that the very survival of our land actually depends on whether Christian men - and women - recognise this war and are prepared to serve in the Lord's army, and to oppose the secularists at every turn.
BRINGING EVERY THOUGHT INTO CAPTIVITY
The earliest Christian missionaries to these shores faced a dilemma. The societies to whom they brought the Gospel were pagan in outlook and Druidic in practice. In the absence of an almighty deity over all of life, pagan societies always worship whatever aspect of God's creation is important to them. Visitors from lands around the Equator are always stunned by the length of our days in summer and the shortness of them in winter. There, the sun rises at six, thereabouts, and sets at six, all year round.
This far north, in the depths of winter, it will have seemed to the inhabitants that the sun was dying. So at the winter solstice there would be ceremonies, involving sacrifice, probably human, to revive the sun.
The early Christians would be appalled at these devotions, and once whole villages and towns began to be converted they had to make a decision. Should they introduce Christian, or Jewish festivals, and suppress the native ones? Or should they take what existed and Christianise it?
They chose the latter, taking those pagan thoughts captivity for Christ, which is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at a time of the year when it is somewhat unlikely He was actually born. Some Christians reject the whole concept of Christmas as a result, but although I have sympathy for them, I do believe they have missed the point which Prudence Dailey makes so well. The 'central religious significance' of Christmas lies indeed at the heart of our national identity. The fact that God became one of us, incarnate in Jesus Christ, is an event of massive significance in human history. As one of the great Christian feasts, it informs all of what the
EMBERS OF CHRISTIANITY COULD BECOME A FLAME
The fact is, our forebears built an entire legal and political edifice around Christianity. Alfred the Great based his system of justice and the punishments for crimes unashamedly on the Mosaic judicial law. Our Common Law and Statute Laws, despite some hiccups, followed the laws of God. Since the Second World War, secularists have overturned many of them, one could say nearly all of them. But it sill concerns them that civic dignitaries go to carol services and hold crib services like the one in Louth. They must believe that the ember of Christianity in public life could easily be fanned into a flame which would overturn their hard-fought success.
That in itself is encouraging, yet most Christians do not understand what is going on, with the result that the little officials who go beyond their authority are allowed to carry on and to get away with it.
In a peculiar kind of way, even the commercialisation of Christmas is a good thing. It means that a Christian festival is so much part of our national life that we take it for granted. But therein lies the danger. Because we take it for granted, we forget to defend it.
BATTLES ON MANY FRONTS
Spiritual battles today are being fought on many fronts in our public life. We have blasphemers insulting Christ. Laws are being changed away from what God directs. Preaching of the Gospel is even under threat. Islam is on the rise. Homosexuals are almost at the point of total domination of public life. Children are at risk of moral and physical damage through sex education. Society is breaking down. Drugs, drink and crime are taking away the young. Now there is another front, that of de-Christianisation.
We may have to prioritise, but this is at least as big as any of the others and if we are alert enough it is easy to mobilise public opinion against the latest example of 'political correctness gone mad'. Except it always is mad, and actually it is not mad, but knows just what it is doing. So must we. There is going to be a another hard year ahead of us.
But in the meantime, before we get down to work in the New Year, let us celebrate our Lord's birth. While most of the population still, just about, know what it means, I'll wish you 'Merry Christmas'!