nativity

By David d'Lima - National Secretary, FamilyVoice Australia

Affirming the historical Jesus at Christmas

Christians may utilise the advent season to remind themselves and the world about the historical facts pertaining to the life of Jesus, and commend him as personal saviour and lord of all the nations. A starting point is to explain that the vast majority of scholars (Christian or not) regard the New Testament as a valuable historical source, and that ancient pagan Roman writers mention Jesus - though they gave him no respect! Three among them are prominent:

Pliny the Younger wrote in about AD 112 as governor of Bithynia-Pontus, asking the Emperor Trajan for his advice about responding to Christians, and criticizing their disgusting, fanatical superstition  [Epistulae 10:96].

Tacitus wrote in about AD 116, keenly denouncing a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. He further explained that ... Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus .... [Annals 15:44].

Suetonius wrote disparagingly in about AD 122, stating that the Jews rioted at the instigation of Chrestus  [Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Claudius 25].

At an earlier time, the physician Luke connected the nativity to world events. Luke carefully investigated everything, and then wrote an orderly account in two books that he dedicated to the most excellent Theophilus (Luke 1:3) - a believer whose name means something like "loved by God", who may have been a Roman authority. Further, Luke makes reference to Augustus and to a census conducted while Quirinius was governor of Syria (2:1-2). Those positive references to Roman civic authority in the advent accounts make a most important New Testament commendation of God's gift of government.

Civic dimensions to the nativity in Luke's Gospel

The advent episodes presented by Luke provide us with important examples of God's interest in civic governance. They are seen firstly as we examine the dutiful response of Mary and Joseph to the census, and secondly when we see the shepherds testifying - regardless of restrictions on them as witnesses.

Mary and Joseph respond dutifully at the time of the census, as he went with her to his own town to register (Luke 2:3). We may constrast them with the reactionary figure Judas the Galilean who appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt (Acts 5:37). Judas was killed by the Roman government and all his followers were scattered. That episode in the Book of Acts is confirmed by the First Century Jewish historian Josephus, as he described Judas as leading a rebellion against the census (Antiquities 18:1).

While a ruler should not hold a census based on diabolical or self-reliant motivation (I Chronicles 21:1), it is helpful to tally the people to achieve a righteous aim (Exodus 30:12). Census taxes and data collection are necessary as the civic authorities give their full time to governing (Romans 13:6).

We may also perceive the sovereignty of God as the census required Mary and Joseph to journey to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4). This fulfilled the prophecy of Micah 5:2 regarding where the Christ was to be born (Matthew 2:4).

Another civic implication in the Gospel of Luke (2:17-18) may be seen in the response given by the shepherds after they had visited the newborn Messiah:  they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Shepherds were ill-reputed within Judaism and were banned as witnesses (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 25b). Thus the term good shepherd is used of Jesus who lays down his life (John 10:11), so outsiders may enter the fold. By God's grace, the shepherds are authorised to testify as they are inwardly compelled to speak - regardless of the unjust cultural and religious restraint.

As the shepherds effectively challenged the unwarranted restriction on their testimony, and as the holding of a census may enable the good functioning of government, Luke's account of the nativity may encourage modern Christian people to be more zealous when providing civic engagement and enrichment.

Lessons for government from the nativity in Matthew

Important civic implications of the birth of Jesus Christ may be seen as we compare two responses that are detailed in Matthew's account of the nativity. The first is seen in the action of the Magi who honour Jesus as lord. The second occurs as we see Herod the Great despising the newborn King of the Jews.

Disturbing Herod and all Jerusalem, the Magi gave testimony concerning the King of the Jews, saying: "we have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:1-2). Traditionally regarded as three kings from the East, or three wise men, they are better understood as astrologers or magicians. Nor is their number given in the Bible - although three gifts are named. This much we know about them: they commended Christ to Herod in word and deed, travelling to fulfil the aim of honouring the Messiah. That pilgrimage of the Magi prefigured the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles and their kings (Acts 9:15). Like those Magi, all kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him (Psalm 72:11).

Sadly, King Herod stands in stark contrast to the Magi as he rejected Christ, and lied by saying he wanted to honour Jesus. Sending the Magi to Bethlehem, Herod said: "Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him" (Matthew 2:8). This in fact produced the first instance of civil disobedience in the New Testament, as the Magi were warned through a dream not to go back to Herod (2:12).

Then came a massacre after the Holy Family escaped to Egypt. By the order of Herod, his soldiers killed all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under (2:16). Like Pharaoh who rejected the grace of God (Exodus 1:8) and massacred infants (1:16), Herod commanded the slaughter of boys in Bethlehem. But like Moses who escaped death and was adopted into Pharaoh's household (2:1-10), Jesus was rescued and adopted by Joseph. Thus our Lord re-enacted aspects of the history of God's people.

Appallingly, a much greater killing of babies has occurred through abortion which became legal in many nations from the early 1970s. At the same time, adoption fell into gross disrepute in Western countries, though it was applied to Jesus from his nativity, and is also prophetic concerning the people of God - as we wait eagerly for our adoption (Romans 8:23) through the work of Christ. God's people today do well to challenge the abortion epidemic, and seek to restore community and governmental respect for adoption.

Ministry options for the advent season

As Christian people should in every way ... make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive (Titus 2:10), making the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16), we may lovingly reach out during Christmas time - when unbelievers may be more open to the gospel. Practical options are as follows:

  • Holding a community BBQ and carols-by-candlelight event in a park; 
  • Singing carols in shopping malls, retirement homes, hospices or hospitals; 
  • Distributing nativity bookmarks or gospel tracts to people in the locality; 
  • Giving Christmas cards to MPs, and asking them for prayer points; 
  • Writing to our military personnel overseas, via the Department of Defence; 
  • Screening archival Royal Christmas Messages during advent services; 
  • Hosting a free Christmas lunch for needy people in the community;  ]
  • Presenting Christmas hampers to police, ambulance officers and emergency services personnel - who are serving on duty over the festive season.

Proclaiming Jesus at Christmas

Advent expressions of love provide a timely basis for challenging individuals, communities and authorities with the truth about Jesus Christ, especially since Christmas festivities tend to overshadow him as the reason for the season:

Individuals may be urged to accept Christ as lord and saviour by renouncing sin, and receiving forgiveness - "because of the tender mercy of our God ... to guide our feet into path of peace" (Luke 1:78-79).

Communities can be urged to echo the angelic message: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests" (2:14) recognising that only as God is glorified do we find peace - and only through his mercy. We may inform communities that as God's people we seek the peace and prosperity of the city and pray to the LORD for it (Jeremiah 29:7).

Authorities may promote peace by recognising that the government will be on his shoulders (Isaiah 9:6), and as we warn them that God "has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble" (Luke 1:52).

LABOR SHORTEN

FamilyVoice Australia is questioning the ALP’s decision at its National Conference on Monday to continue to push for the removal of gender from official documents.

Despite cleverly wording the push as simply a “review” of gender rules for official documents, the cultural Marxist agenda influencing Labor to legitimize so-called “transgenderism” is clear.

In October, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said his government would not remove gender from official documents.

“No, no … it’s nonsense, no plans to do that,” Mr Shorten told reporters.

“We’ve got no plans to change that (gender on documents),” he said.

“We were repeatedly told before and during the plebiscite that redefining marriage had no consequences,” said FamilyVoice National Director Charles Newington.

“And yet, a year after gender was removed from marriage, the ALP is seeking to remove gender in society more broadly,” said Mr Newington.

“Bill Shorten must stand up to the radicals in the Labor movement and give voters an iron-clad guarantee that a government under his watch will not remove gender from official documents such as birth certificates and passports.

"For obvious international identification and medical reasons birth certificates and passports should be reliable records of the biological sex of a person.”

For more information, contact Charles Newington on 0412 163 862.

REFUGEES

FamilyVoice Australia has slammed Labor’s commitment to expand Australia’s refugee intake, especially as it promises to funnel $500 million to the United Nation’s refugee agency that has a well-known bias against Christian refugees.

“In 2015 and 2016, the United Nations High Commision for Refugees (UNHCR) selected 6,444 refugees from the Middle East for resettlement in Australia. Twelve percent were Christian — just 782 people,” said FamilyVoice National Secretary David d'Lima.

“Under the Coalition government, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection prioritised religious minorities in the Middle East, particularly Christians.

“According the New York Times, 78 percent of the approximately 18,563 refugees from Syria and Iraq granted entry from mid 2015 to early 2016 were Christians.

“Christians in parts of the Middle East face heavy persecution and are under continual threat of being wiped out.

“In 2015, Labor immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann mouthed support for ‘a non-discriminatory immigration program’, in opposition to the Coalition desire to bring in Christian refugees, which aimed to offset the UN program’s bias against Christians.

“FamilyVoice opposes increasing the refugee intake under any Government that refuses to protect the most vulnerable. Indeed, Australia should fund an intake it can afford, and the current level of 16,250 is about right.”

For more information, contact David d'Lima on 0414 969 145.

faith 800

A federal Labor bill to undermine religious freedoms enjoyed by faith-based schools failed to pass the senate last week, but the legislation still remains a threat. It's an issue the Parliament will consider in the new year.

The legislation to remove faith-based exemptions was pushed by Labor on the basis of a discredited notion that same-sex attracted students suffer discrimination at faith-based schools.

South Australian Liberal Senator David Fawcett, a strong advocate for religious freedom, explained his concerns about the legislation:

“The Labor bill modified Section 37 of the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) which deals with religious bodies (churches, synagogues, temples and mosques) as opposed to religious schools (educational religious bodies - Section 38). The Labor bill would expose someone providing education within a religious body (eg: a course or seminar run by a Church, and potentially even teaching on a Sunday morning from the pulpit) to the provisions of the SDA.

This creates the possibility that a priest or pastor who taught the accepted view of a Church that God created people male and female or that marriage was between a man and a woman could be hauled before a Discrimination tribunal in the same way Jason Tey (a Perth based photographer) was recently, just for stating his belief.”

Senator Fawcett added that the Labor Bill “represents an unprecedented attack on religious freedom, and freedoms more broadly (speech and association) that have always underpinned Australia’s successful plural democracy.”

press release

FamilyVoice Australia       MEDIA RELEASE     4 December 2018

Parliament must strengthen, not weaken, protections for the unborn

FamilyVoice Australia urges both the parliament and the people to reject the abortion reform bill as “a excruciating and heartless attack on unborn children”.

FamilyVoice National Director Charles Newington said the unborn are society’s most vulnerable members and must be safeguarded.

“Unborn babies should not be treated as any less human just because they have not yet passed through the birth canal,” he said.

“They feel the excruciating pain of abortion and mothers frequently report physical harm and mental anguish following the procedure.

“In any abortion not just the child dies in its mother's womb.

Especially in late term abortions something else dies in the mother's heart” he said.

“Parliament must also recognise the medical advancements that have reduced the age of surviving premature birth to about 23 weeks which is a clear indication of the child's full humanity. It's past time for moral leadership on this issue. Reject the Bill. Protect mother and child. Find a better way."

For more information, contact David d'Lima on 0414 969 145.