Modern challenges to Christmas spirit
Christmas messages by major Christian churches remind followers to keep the faith and remember all things worth celebrating at this time of year.
Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, said it was important to remember that the gift of life was always worth celebrating, even when we were constantly reminded of death.
"There's a lot of death around these days. I guess there always is," he said.
"In such a moment, it can seem forlorn to celebrate life as we do at Christmas. But it's all the more necessary as the culture of death makes more ground."
"Christmas is all about the gift of life, which is always a blessing, a sign of God-with-us.
We remember the birth of one particular child, Jesus of Nazareth, which is quite literally God-with-us. "
"In him, the God who is life, the source of all life, chooses to become one of us, to enter into the life of his creatures."
"That's why, at this time, we think especially of people who are in seemingly hopeless situations, and what a procession they are here and far away."
Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall encouraged Christians to be hospitable and welcoming to others this Christmas.
"The idea of hospitality, or welcome, is central to the Christian faith - especially at Christmas," he said.
"Christmas is an act of radical and generous hospitality on God's behalf. In Christ, God comes to be with us, face-to-face."
"To be born with us, to live with us, to eat with us, to share our struggles with us - to be one of us."
Archbishop Aspinall also said in a world where social media could make us narrow-minded, it was important to open ourselves up to different and challenging ideas.
"Across social media, people separate themselves into tribes of the like-minded, to push away those people whose ideas are found challenging," he said.
"We often don't get the opportunity to really understand one another or to develop empathy."
"We are deeply enriched when we open ourselves to welcoming others and learning from them. We are greatly diminished when we don't."
Elder Carl R. Maurer of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints urged people to be mindful of their own and other people's mental health this Christmas.
"Often at Christmas, whilst we hear many making merry and wishing the spirit of Christmas - or the Spirit of Christ - to be abundant in the lives of those around them, there are others, most especially in recent years, that are simply unable to receive that invitation as they struggle, burdened with despair, depression and other mental health challenges," he said.
"As we take time to worship and celebrate the birth of Christ through this special season, we will find that by him and through him we can have hope, increase our capacity for charity and love towards others."
Lutheran Church Bishop for Queensland, Pastor Paul Smith, highlighted the work young people have done for others this year.
"A recent survey showed young people's ever-increasing commitment to service and charity, with the highest involvement in "volunteering" in Australia being the 15-17 age group," he said.
"Behind this is the longing for young people, to have something worth following, worth believing in. They yearn for a role model to cherish."
Bishop Smith reminded us of the tale of the young King Wenceslas, who achieved so much in his short life.
"We know this King as "Wenceslas". He was only 25 when he was assassinated and at the time, Wenceslas had only ruled for about five years. What did young Wenceslas do that was so great? We might not have heard of this young man, if it had not been for an Englishman, named John Mason Neale who wrote the story of Wenceslas into a popular carol, about 150 years ago," he said.
Uniting Church Queensland's Rev David Baker acknowledged the challenges Australians faced in maintaining trust in social institutions this year.
"There is no doubt that 2018 has been a challenging year, across many spheres of Australian life. It's been a year when our trust in the leadership of many institutions in society has been eroded," he said.
Despite this, Rev Baker urged Christians to keep their faith in God this Holy season.
"This Christmas, I encourage you to rediscover the wonder. In a world torn apart by conflict and beset by challenges, where it feels as though we wait for God in the wilderness, the wonder of the Christmas story disrupts the status quo," he said.
"The arrival of the Babe of Bethlehem lifts our hearts, reminding us that God is faithful, that God is prepared to dwell in this mess of human life alongside us."
Nathan Campbell, chaplain for the Presbyterian Church Queensland, reminded us to remember the true meaning of Christmas celebrations, after Holy traditions have largely been overshadowed by consumerism.
"The Western calendar - and thus, our public holidays - once marked the passing of a year through a series of 'holy days'.
"Now, our retailers mark the calendar for us according to a new 'religion', the belief that consumer choice is 'Christ' (which means king), and that the key to joy, and to salvation from the mundane, is more good things.
"Christians have often been accused of stealing pagan 'holy days', but now our 'holy days' have been co-opted by this religion," he said.
"Shopping centres are the temples for this religion, and you can be sure their halls will be decked with Halloween merchandise each October, then Christmas paraphernalia, and as surely as the sun will rise on Boxing Day, we'll find hot cross buns in the bakeries."
"This new religion of consumerism is not freedom, but exactly the sort of joyless drudgery and captivity to the mundane that Jesus came to save us from.
"Why not ponder what makes your holiday 'holy' this year?"