Christmas Greeting

IMG_3692

Enjoy Christmas Day

Eat Turkey

Eat a prawn

Sip some eggnog

Avoid Christmas pudding…yuck

Smell the Christmas tree

Be patient with excited children

Don’t forget the hurting, the lonely, and the poor

Sing,  ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’, because if you live in Australia that’s as much snow as we’re going to experience

Tonight, watch Carols by Candlight at the Myer Music Bowl. Yes, I know it’s lame but it is our lame Melbourne tradition.

Remember, Christ has been born. The eternal God, God the Son, took on flesh and made his dwelling among us

Remember, Christ died for our sins

Remember, God raised this Jesus to life on the third

Remember, the hope of the world is now seated at the right hand of God the Father

Remind your children, your friends, and your family, that in Christ there is a joy that will outlast everything you may enjoy on December 25th.

Come Boxing Day, remember that every truth about Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, remains true

An opportunity to show grace

UPDATE (Dec 23, 2pm): Peter Dutton has announced that Hassan Asif’s family will now be granted visa to Australia to visit their son/brother.

Good news

A good decision

—————————-

You may have heard the heart wrenching story of Hassan Asif today. A 24 year old student from Pakistan who has terminal cancer. His mother and brother have been refused visas to enter Australia, so that they can be with their son and brother, as he dies.

You can read the story here on ABC news.

7049228-3x2-340x227

This is dreadfully sad, and of course I am not privy to all the story. From the report, it sounds as though the family were denied because it was believed that they might out stay their visa time frame.

Tonight, I wrote this brief letter to our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull,  asking him to reconsider the decision. Perhaps you might like to consider contacting Mr Turnbull or Mr Dutton also.

 

Dear Prime Minister,

I have heard of the extremely sad situation facing Mr Hassan Asif, and I am asking that we show compassion and grace to him and to his family, by allowing Mr Asif’s family to travel to Australia. No one should have to face death without being surrounded by loved ones. Sometimes this happens, but when the power is in our hands to avoid it, we have the moral imperative to act.

Perhaps there is reason behind declining visas to the family, but I am wondering whether we can show kindness to them, given the circumstances.

I am sure that there will be many Australians who will be willing to assist in bringing the family to Australia, and to caring for them while they are here.

Yours Sincerely

Murray Campbell

Senior Minister, Mentone Baptist Church

 

 

 

Christmas Carols with Chill/i

So it’s a stinking hot morning in Melbourne today. 34º degrees by 7:30am. I reckon that must be close to a record for a Melbourne morning.

News is, the cool change is heading our way and will be sweeping across the Bay by 1-2pm. That’s great news for emergency services and home owners out bush and in outlining parts of Melbourne. It’s also great news for everyone who love Christmas Carols.

Even if the heat persists Mentone Baptist can keep make the auditorium as cold as Montreal on Christmas Eve, and we can even add in the snow…maybe not.

ChristmasWeb

For Christmas singing, lights, something for the kids, fun, BBQ, and a message about the joy God can give, join us for this wonderful  Christmas tradition.

 

Starts 6pm and will finish around 7pm

Everyone around Mentone, the Bayside and beyond are very welcome

The Creeds, Wheaton College, and the same God theory

Last week a Professor at Wheaton College tweeted, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book”, and “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

The College has since suspended Dr. Larycia Hawkins. News of the suspension has caused a bush fire of controversy among American Christians, and the debate has also spilled over into Australia.

IMG_3322

Islam and Christianity share with Judaism a heritage from Abraham, and all three are monotheistic religions, but the similarities don’t extend much beyond.

Dr Hawkins is rightly seeking to express Christian love toward Muslim people. At this troubled time in world history, it is vital and godly for Christians to show love, grace, and hospitality to our Muslim neighbours and friends, including welcoming Muslim Refugees from Syria. But stretching commonalities in theology doesn’t help anyone, let alone glorifying God.

Miroslav Volf is a notable Christian scholar whom I’ve benefited from in my own thinking on other issues. He has weighed in on this debate in a significant way, arguing while Muslims and Christians hold different views of God,  ultimately the same God is worshiped. That doesn’t mean there is not crucial disagreement about God, however. It is worth reading Volf with his own words.

As I read an update of this story this morning, I was reminded of the Creeds. The historic creeds give articulation to the Christian understanding of God, as is found in the Bible. Do they help us in grappling with this question as to whether Muslims and Christians believe in the same God? How would a Muslim respond, for example, to the Nicene Creed?

“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of Sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

My point is simple, we mustn’t neglect the Creeds as we consider God.

It’s an opportune time of the year to consider who is God, for at Christmas the invisible God took on flesh, in order to take and die for our sins.

This Christmas we will sing, among other carols, ‘O Come all ye Faithful’ which has these words remarkable words about the incarnation of the eternal God, God the Son,

“True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
lo, he shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten not created;”

——-

Ed Stetzer has also weighed in on the controversy. As usual he makes a lot of sense.                                       http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/december/my-daughter-wheaton-college-protests-and-why-we-are-more-in.html

Al Mohler has written this importance response to the issue – http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/12/18/do-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god/

Kevin De Young has written a useful piece on The Gospel Coalition website

Christmas Carols in Schools: the directive given to Principals

UPDATE as of 8pm December 22nd

Later this afternoon Education Minister, Mr James Merlino, issued a statement via The Australian newspaper, seeking to douse once for all the questions and confusion over whether schools will or will not be allowed to reference God and Jesus Christ in Christmas singing, as of 2016.

I am not interested in the politics being played out between the Government and opposition MPs, but I am concerned about Government overstepping the mark over freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

In his statement, Mr Merlino has reiterated (he made a comment on his website a few days ago) that there is no ban on carols in schools, and he has now specified that songs such as Away in a Manger and O Come all ye faithful, can be sung.  This is most encouraging to hear. I am not sure why it took several days for this clarification to come, but nonetheless, many people will be relieved to hear the news.

This statement is an improvement on and somewhat different to what he said a week earlier, “As with other curriculum decisions, schools will make the decision as to which Christmas carols feature as part of classroom activities.”

Does this mean the end of the matter? Unfortunately no, because  Mr Merlino’s statement is at odds with the Departmental directive sent to school principals. In light of this,  I am requesting that the Minister revise this messy piece of policy, and clarify in writing to schools so that there can be no ambiguity. Better still, why not drop the whole issue and allow schools to return to a practice that has work well for many decades

As I have earlier said, the directive is at best confusing, and a natural reading leaves people sensing that Christian carols are probably not permitted, except for within the very strict parameters of SRI and perhaps the General Religion classes.

The contention now is whether schools will follow Mr Merlino’s comments or will they adhere to the Education Department’s directive.

below is the post I wrote on December 17 with details concerning the directive sent to Principals

_______________________________________

I would prefer to spend this time enjoying the lead up to Christmas, not defending the freedom of children to celebrate Christmas, but unfortunately this is a sign of the times in which we live.

Following on from yesterday’s developments regarding Christmas songs in our schools, I have read a copy of the Government’s directive given to school principals. Below is a screenshot of the most relevant section. The left side describes what is permissible only in a SRI class, and the right hand side outlines what is acceptable as non-SRI activity.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 1.11.13 pm

Logically, these two lists clash. The directive is clear, songs that praise God or some other deity are strictly prohibited outside SRI. The only exception to this rule are songs considered ‘societally recognised’, but even they are limited to General Religious Instruction. However, the right side column says that Christmas carols are permitted. Which is it?

A generous reading of the directive could conclude that children can keep singing ‘Away in a Manger’ and other songs about Jesus’ birth, but in my view that is not the natural reading of the document.

Education Minister, Mr James Merlino, yesterday commented that Christmas carols can still be sung in our schools, which was I was pleased to hear, but his own Department’s notice to school principals puts this in doubt. Unless of course, his meaning of Christmas Carols is limited to those non-religious festive favourites such as ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’.

I’m curious, what will happen to classic songs like John Lennon’s, ‘Imagine’ ,which is often sung at Christmas time. Are anti-God lyrics ok for our children to sing?

One thing is clear from the directive, members of the community can no longer be invited to help schools in their Christmas celebrations, which is sad given how most people appreciate these ties with community groups.

At best this policy is ambiguous (perhaps deliberately so), and that is evident from the disparate interpretations being proffered by various MPs and even schools.

For me, reading the directive raises more questions:

  1. Is a ‘societally recognised’ song permitted to be sung at a Christmas celebration outside of General Religious classes?
  2. By Christmas Carols, are songs about Jesus, the Bible, and God permitted in school celebrations? For example, ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Silent Night’.

If the answer to these questions is yes, and many Victorians will be encouraged to hear this, I would then ask Mr Merlino and the Education Department to clarify the confusion for schools, in writing. Better still, I recommend that the directive be revised to support these important clarifications.

What do others think?

Developments on the ‘ban’ of Christmas Carols in Victorian Schools

Over the last few days there have been developments on the issue of Christmas songs in Victorian State Schools.  Although, perhaps ‘side-step’ or ‘entanglement’ is a better description than development!

The-Grinch-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-31423260-1920-1080

This week, the Geelong Advertiser’s front page headline is, ‘Don’t Take Our Carols. Religious Xmas songs could be banned at schools, claims Katos”

On December 12, former Attorney General and current member for Box Hill, Robert Clark, wrote this.

“It’s hard to believe it could happen, but this year’s school Christmas concerts may be the last at which children are allowed to sing traditional carols, under new State government rules quietly introduced last month.

Well known and much loved Christmas carols like Silent Night, Away in the Manger and Come All Ye Faithful are all caught by the new bans.

The Education Department has instructed government school principals that parent volunteers or outside music instructors are not allowed to teach carols or other “praise music” to students unless it is “common societally recognised music” (whatever that means).

As well, teachers will only be allowed to teach carols if it is part of “general religious instruction”.

The new rules have already caused at least one school to decide to remove traditional carols from their end of year performance, before reversing the decision after parent protest.

Next year, many more schools are likely to decide it is easier to scrap Christmas carols altogether rather than try to work out whether or when they are allowed to have them under the new rules.

It’s not clear whether these new rules are part of a deliberate move to drive out Christmas carols from schools, or the unintended consequences of bureaucratic incompetence and bad drafting.

Either way, the government must withdraw these new rules and allow students at government schools to learn, sing and enjoy Christmas carols as they have for generations.”

Member for Mildura, Peter Crisp, is under the same impression and yesterday began a petition asking for Daniel Andrews to reverse his decision in banning Christian carols from our schools

Education Minister, James Merlino, has today released this response,

“You may have heard ridiculous claims from Coalition MPs that we have banned Christmas carols in schools. That is just untrue.

To be absolutely clear, traditional Christmas carols have been and will continue to be sung at our government schools (including my girls’ school).

These lies are creating unnecessary angst within the community and those spreading this misinformation should be ashamed.

Don’t let the grinches get you down. I hope you all enjoy singing your favourite carols with family and friends this Christmas…I know I will!”

I am pleased to hear Mr Merlino repudiating the claims being made by what is now a growing number of Victorian MPs. However if the new policy is so clear, why are the media continuing to suggest that songs referencing Jesus and God will be prohibited? Are concerned MPs simply playing politics with this issue or is their concern legitimate, and if so, what is the basis for their concerns except for a Government directive which is ambiguous?

We all know that there are Christmas Carols and there are Christmas Carols. While most of us enjoy singing secular favourites about Santa, reindeer and snowmen, will ‘Away in a Manger’ and ‘The First Noel’ be permitted in our schools next year? I do not mean to sound disingenuous but clarity is lacking, and recent history gives Victorians reason to ask questions. After all, even now our schools can only sing verse 1 of ‘Away in a Manger’, such is the danger attached to singing its other verses!

I have asked Mr Merlino for clarification on this matter, and am waiting to hear back. I will be encouraged to hear a guaranteed ‘yes’ from the Minister.

For a State that alleges to celebrate diversity and freedom, it is sad to see us having this discussion, even school children singing Christmas songs about Jesus has become contentious, and perhaps to intolerable.

———-

Shortly after publishing this post it came to my attention that I had misquoted James Merlino.  I rectified the mistake immediately to ensure it is accurate. Apologies to anyone who read the misquote