Christmas 2018: Is there anything left to believe in?
IT'S not hard to see why people are losing their faith in God, the church, Christians and the whole Christmas thing.
2018 has been a year marred by horrible headlines concerning Christianity.
We've seen shocking examples of church leaders in authority preying on the most vulnerable in our society - children.
But that's not the church I encounter every weekend.
Our church is a safe place for kids. Each person dealing with children has a blue card. They are supervised. And there's a system of checks and balance to ensure a close watch on anyone getting anywhere near our kids.
Across Australia, we have some wonderful examples of churches doing great things in our community. Countless hungry people are fed, the sick visited in hospitals and grieving family members are comforted in their most desperate hour.
At this time, more than any other, we see the magic of Christmas.
Indeed, over the past two weekends, I watched as thousands went to events put on by local churches to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
Watching the wonder in children's eyes as they see Christmas lights, the nativity scene, and productions telling of the Christmas story, I am reminded again about why I believe.
I am reminded that we all need something to believe in, to give us hope and a sense of purpose in life. Children and young people need it more than ever.
Yet we see a society that is increasingly believing in nothing.
We don't have any faith in our politicians, our government, our schools, and saddest of all sometimes our own family and parents.
Some of that is justified - but I wonder if our complete cynicism and lack of belief in anything is becoming more toxic than we truly understand.
If we paint a picture of a world not worth living in, should we really be surprised by the number of young people prematurely ending their own lives?
This year, on a personal level, my faith was tested probably more than any other year after my father was diagnosed with cancer and died.
We prayed for a miracle but it never came.
Yet after his passing, I was strangely comforted by the thought that God is good all the time.
You see I don't blame God for all the evil happening in the world.
Most of what is happening is the consequence of man's own free will - and terribly poor choices - including religious people acting out of hate rather than love.
On a personal level, I believe my father, who spent his life sharing the good news of Christmas, is in a better place, free of cancer.
I know that he would not want to have undergone more rounds of chemotherapy and pain.
Of course, there's continual sadness that he is not with us and he will not be around to gather us all together for the Furler family photo at Christmas.
Dad loved the simplicity of the Christmas message.
Jesus came to earth as both man and God. He lived as a man, worked as a man, was tempted as a man, and ultimately put to death as a man.
But according to the gospels, Christ was the only 'god' to conquer death and offer the way back for all of us to God.
Children, more than anyone, get the Christmas story in all its simplicity.
I see every weekend as young ones dance during our song services, waving flags and sensing the peaceful presence that descends upon us all.
Christ came as a baby to bring us all joy, peace and love.
I pray that you and your family will find it this holiday season - not through religion but relationship - with one another - and ultimately with God.