This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 390 – December 18, 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

Good bye to Santa Claus?

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My daughter came and sat down by me last night.  “Dad, when you were little, did you believe in Santa Claus?”   I had to think about it for a moment.  Certainly my parents sent us to bed Christmas Eve with the threat that Santa could not come if we were awake!  And yet they were also conservative Christians who would be concerned at telling a lie.  I struggle to remember.  I mention it due to some research at Alder Hey Children’s hospital in the English City of Liverpool , reported of all places, in the Zambian Independent.  

The article claimed that Santa is important in child development since adults who encourage children to believe in Father Christmas help children to foster moral development.  Psychiatrist Lynda Breen is quoted as saying that Santa Claus and his ability to “know if you’ve been bad or good” helps children to learn the difference between right and wrong.  

I confess I was surprised at the report appearing in an African newspaper.  If any Christian culture is opposed to the idea of Santa Claus, I’d guess it probably is in Africa .  Part of our learning curve on this programme has been seeing varied approaches to Christmas in different parts of the world.  

To be honest, I’m fed up with Santa Claus – not that I or my children believe in him, but that Hollywood seems to have destroyed any beauty in the myth, and suppliers of cheap and tacky Christmas lights and decorations seem to have done the rest.  And yet Christmas – next week – is still a time I look forward to.  A time when, over the holiday period we’ll meet up with all the family, and also with a lot of friends.  A time of laughter, of memories, and of hope.  

I look back at my childhood Christmases with great fondness.  There’s equal pleasure looking over the photos of my children opening their presents when they were young.  And there is still a sense of expectation on Christmas Eve as they look at the presents under the tree.  

These last few weeks the team here have been on the same kind of nostalgia trip with Network  7 News.  Looking back over the thousands of stories that we have covered.  The interviews, some of them tragic, many hopeful.  We’ve seen ourselves as “a voice of hope” both in times of crisis and celebration.  For me, saying goodbye to a programme like this feels perhaps similar to a child’s realisation that Santa no longer exists.  AWR administration has followed a road of rationalisation that means English will be locally produced in Africa and Asia -- but will no longer be a global programme.  I understand the reasons for such a decision – and you can read about them on our website – but for me, it still hurts that a relationship that we’ve built up over the last 7 ½ years is coming to an end.  I’ve appreciated your letters, your emails, your comments and criticisms of the programme.  And yes, there have been critics.  Some who do not appreciate the way we’ve covered a particular story, or perhaps the choice of a piece of music.  But those have been far outnumbered by those who tell us how a particular story or comment has been of help in their lives.  I think of a nun working in a remote part of northern Ghana who listens daily (if she can afford the batteries) and finds her life blessed – sharing what she has learnt with the youth club she runs.  A man in Thailand – with a 37 year prison sentence, turned from suicide to hope as he tuned in.  Another in Malaysia who phoned to say how our feature on family friendly churches inspired him to try some changes in his church.  A lady in Washington DC who was moved to tears listening to an Easter comment and the accompanying music.  I want to thank you for listening, and for you to know that while next week may be the last edition of Network 7 News, the hope that we have talked about goes on for ever.   

If I have a favourite Bible passage it is Romans chapter 8.  It starts off by telling me I am saved in Jesus (8:1).   It tells me if God is for me, no one can be against me (8:31)   And then Paul gives wonderful words of hope that I hope you  can claim with me both now and for the future:   

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)  

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