PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Dec. 9) - Christmas Day is little more than two weeks hence.

At The National we would like to make a special plea to the people of Papua New Guinea.

Let this Christmas be celebrated in a spirit that reflects the beliefs we claim to hold, the beliefs of true Christianity.

The Christmas season has long been hidden behind a travesty of the very qualities we should all be celebrating.

Christianity is a religion made up of many beliefs.

For Christians, the one true God stands at its pinnacle, divine, the embodiment of all that His followers seek to emulate.

Purity, holiness, forgiveness, and the grace of eternal and indestructible love - these are some of the qualities our priests, parsons and preachers seek to imbue in our spirits.

None of us is capable of assuming perfection, but through faith and humility we can continue to try and reach the impossible.

Tolerance and selflessness are further attributes appropriate to a deeply held belief in Christianity.

Few of these qualities leap to mind when we consider the way in which many celebrate the contemporary Christmas.

Violence, both domestic and in our communities, savage drunkenness, the false and harmful Nirvana of drugs, and the destruction of the real reason for the day in the eyes of children - that behavior should play no part in our Christmas celebrations.

The Mass of Christ -- Christ's mass or Christmas - is one of Christianity's few great religious festivals, surpassed only by Easter with its tumult of terrors and the unique gift of its ultimate deliverance from death. 

Answer this question in all honesty: do you and your family have the Baby Jesus at the forefront of your minds on Christmas Day?

Are the people in your home celebrating the birth of the one true Savior with a heart bursting with joy at that event remembered, and the chance it symbolically offers of a new life and a new beginning?

It is difficult to find images of that great outburst of renewed spirit within our towns and villages.

We are surrounded by the glitter and tinsel of the great day, and the superficial signs of an all-encompassing celebration on the part of much of humanity.

How often do we pause to think what we are celebrating, and whose birthday we have immortalized?

As we stand in the school grounds, or the neighborhood park, or the sacred precincts of our churches, we sing in hearty unison all the old carols and Christmas songs.

Our candles flutter bravely in the night breeze.

Some do more than merely parrot the words, the words many of us have known since childhood.

When that occurs, the fervor of the singing is matched, however briefly, by the fervor of the joy and faith expressed in those timeless words.

For those who may now be thinking that we are opposed to the traditional Christmas tree, the stars and glittering baubles, the thoughtfully wrapped presents, the wonderful legend of St Nicholas - or best of all, the ecstasy on the face of our children, we most certainly are not.

And yes, of course Christmas must be a time for children, a time of great celebration and happiness.

We ask only that we understand why we are giving gifts to our loved ones, friends and acquaintances. 

We should reflect on why we share the great day with as many of our far-flung families and friends as possible. 

We need to acknowledge why our homes are decorated and our tables bear a celebratory meal.

The answer should be simple.

We choose to involve ourselves with this time-honored annual ritual to mark our great joy at the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The Christmas season in PNG has been marked too often in the past by family celebrations shattered by drunken relatives, or by fatal car accidents that would not have happened at any other time.

It is just 16 days to this wonderful event.

Our country has experienced a fair share of trials and negativity this year.

Christmas gives us the unique opportunity to both celebrate the birth of Jesus, and resolve as a people to open a new chapter in our own lives and in the ongoing journey of Papua New Guinea.

December 9, 2003

The National:


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