Lismore bishop's Christmas message
I remember growing up in a country town in Victoria. Life was simple, we never locked the front door of our house, neighbours dropped in and out, children played in the streets, mum and dad never worried about us. There were so many people that we looked up to and rightly or wrongly trusted. Doctors, teachers, police, members of the churches, bank managers, shop owners, the postman; they were all respected and our friends.
How different Australia is at the end of 2018. Who do we trust, who can we trust? Every institution is questioned. With the advent of "fake news”, even the media is doubted. Realistically, I think that in the past we accorded an unthinking and irresponsible trust, yet I do think that we have lost something.
It seems to me that there is an attitude of mistrust and cynicism which could undermine the dynamic of a caring, loving society. This Christmas I would like to ponder with you, what the Christmas story says to this situation.
In preparation for Christmas, our churches and homes are being decorated and in a place of honour there is a crib with the baby Jesus lovingly attended by Mary and Joseph. Without Mary and Joseph we would not have Christmas. We know their stories. If Mary had not believed the angel Gabriel, if she had not said 'yes', Jesus would not have been born. If Joseph had not believed the angel and taken Mary home, the story would have been different. Without belief we would not have Christmas. The question for me is, why did they believe?
In the case of Mary, I think that it was her personal integrity and goodness which allowed her to recognise the truth of the angel's words. It was her love of the truth and of God which enabled her to say 'yes'.
Joseph's situation is different to Mary's. He does not see an angel, he dreams an angel. What man discovering that his fiancée is pregnant would believe a dream which said that she was pregnant through the Holy Spirit? Why does he believe? I think that he believes because he wants to believe the dream, and he wants to believe the dream because he believes in Mary and loves her.
Christmas would have been impossible if Mary and Joseph were cynical and untrusting. So, back to the mistrust and cynicism in contemporary Australia. I don't think that we should return to the unthinking credulity of the past, but I do fear that a society, which is so individualistic that it is without the cement of love and trust, will lose its cohesion and creativity.
Trust and love are two sides of the one coin. Love enables trust, and trust builds up love. This Christmas let's have the courage to trust each other and to love. Let's let love into our hearts and erode the crustiness of cynicism and mistrust.
With my prayers and Christmas wishes,