Christmas is coming. The shops are full of customers looking for suitable gifts for friends and relations. End-of-year parties are in full swing.
But just why do we celebrate Christmas? Is it just a holiday at the end of the year, a time to relax with friends and family after the busyness of daily life? A time for fun, frivolity and feasting?
Of course, for the children, Christmas means Santa Claus is coming. Santa is everywhere at Christmas time. In the stores, timid toddlers sit on Santa's knee and have their photos taken. Great memories of Christmas? Great memories, with the focus on Santa Claus, the jolly fat man who rides through the skies on his reindeer-led sleigh, bringing children presents.
Such is our emphasis on Santa and consumerism that many of the younger generation have no idea what Christmas is really about. And who goes to church these days, when the shops are open on Sundays? So we tell our children about Santa Claus, a fictional character, instead of the true story featuring the Babe of Bethlehem.
There's a politically correct idea that telling Christian stories will offend those of other religions. But this is New Zealand, a nation built on Judeo-Christian foundations. Why should we be afraid of our historical heritage? Christmas is a Christian festival. The festivities have no focus, the celebrations ring hollow, if we don't remember that Christmas celebrates the birthday of Jesus Christ.
Other religions have their festivals, but they're not just glitter and feasting, they have a purpose. Hindus have no hesitation in declaring that their Festival of Lights marks the triumph of light over darkness. Similarly, Muslims fast during Ramadan to commemorate the revelation of their holy book, the Koran, to Mohammed.
So why are we New Zealanders so shy about telling the real Christmas story to our children, and instead perpetuate a fairy tale?
The birth of Jesus Christ changed the world. And the death and resurrection of Christ continues to bring salvation and eternal life to those who believe. A free gift for all eternity.
No comparison with Santa — he just brings presents once a year.