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At Christmas, we remember and celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world.
He did not dramatically enter the world as a superhero messiah to conquer politically and reign over the kingdoms of the world, as many were expecting.
Rather, the Son of God gave up his almighty, divine powers to enter the world the same way as every other human being, as an innocent babe made in the image and likeness of God, the Imago Dei. This bestows human dignity on each and every person, and from this dignity the world came to recognise the universal, inherent human rights of each and every person.
He was born into the family of the Virgin Mary and Joseph. This family was the place for natural “procreation, birth, rearing, education, maintenance, psychological support, care in old age”. He found that “because the child can only be fully cared for in a family environment that sex relations and child-birth ought to be encompassed only within the framework of the family, which should not be broken by divorce”, as B.A. Santamaria wrote in his celebrated paper, “Philosophies in Collision” (1973).
Christ’s moral teachings are the foundation of strong marriages and families that create concentric rings of kinship bonds that tie a society together, making families the building blocks of a civilisation, as described by the great modern historian of the family, Allan Carlson.
Indeed, thriving Christian families eventually out-populated the decaying pagan families of ancient Rome, helping lay the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western civilisation.
In contrast, contemporary Western society, founded on the guiding principles of the 18th-century Enlightenment, rejects foundational Christian principles.
It rejects the human person as Imago Dei and sees it as just another form of life, it denies the existence of moral absolutes, replacing them with personal or situation ethics, and undermines the moral, economic and legal framework the natural family needs to thrive.
Rome worshipped many gods; liberalism worships only wealth and pleasure. Liberalism has reached the point where it has little need to attack religion directly, because it has already discredited belief in the supernatural. It is an entirely pragmatic materialism devoted to a technological advancement that supplies all the consumer goods, services and pleasures technology can dream up.
Having sidelined religion, moral absolutes and the transcendent, liberalism’s benchmark of human progress is the political and technological system that provides the most “wellbeing” and maximised pleasures.
As sexuality is the strongest natural drive we have as human beings, once the human person is considered as only a material being with no higher moral or spiritual dimension, sexual freedom assumes paramount importance. It requires the overthrow of all the most sacred moral values and intuitions.
The spirit of our times is like that of Rome, but on steroids.
The results are seen in every corner of the world, where marriage, fertility and the family, reflective of the Holy Trinity, are in decline.
In the end, the spirit of liberalism based on an individual’s right to pleasure has no framework to hold a civilised society together. One of its leading advocates, Richard Dawkins, admits its fatal flaw. He fears that if religion were abolished, “people may feel free to do bad things because they feel God is no longer watching them.”
Yet, against the spirit of our times, paralleling the world of the Prophet Isaiah 750 years before the birth of Christ, there is a resistant remnant still in the world. Just as God told Isaiah, the job today is to tell the people what is wrong and why, and what will happen if they don’t change their ways.
Most will ignore these warnings, God said, but it is necessary to make a stand to draw together the small, inarticulate, unorganised remnant who need to be encouraged and reassured, to take up the struggles of our times.
At Christmas, this remnant, this “people of transcendence” can withdraw from the troubles of the world, compounded by the covid19 crisis, and take heart from contemplating the birth of the Saviour child and the holy family.
Their inspiration comes not from the might of mega tech companies, not from the power of businesses and government, not the glitter of megastars and influencers, not from the woke universities and media.
Their inspiration comes from the transcendent that moves, enlightens and empowers the hearts, souls and minds of believers in this moral dark age.
It comes from the birth of the Saviour into the world as a baby sleeping in a donkey’s feed box, surrounded by lowly shepherds.
On a still, silent night two thousand years ago a light came into the world, a guiding light to transform the world, a light that human efforts can never extinguish.