Signs of the Times - December 2022

Page 1

YOU DON'T

NEED A GIFT

s a m t s i r h this C BEVVIES WITHOUT THE BUZZ

THE REAL SAINT NICK

A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE ON THE WORLD TODAY


IN THIS ISSUE

THE GIFT OF PRESENCE

DECEMBER 2022

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS GIFT-GIVER

the surprising true story that inspired Santa Claus PAGE 32

12

CURRENT

04 WHAT IN THE WORLD 24 BEVVIES WITHOUT

THE BUZZ The surprising rise of non-alcoholic drinks

FAITH

06 MORE THAN

A BUILDING The church isn't a cathedral

18 YOU DON'T NEED A GIFT

THIS CHRISTMAS There's a present for you right now

30 ASK PASTOR JESSE FIND US ON SOCIAL MEDIA 2

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54

WELLBEING

12 SURVIVING THE

FESTIVE SEASON & STAYING HEALTHY Save your waistline this December

38 WHOLE GRAINS FOR

HEART HEALTH Not all fibre is created equal

40 THE PROPHET AND

THE BLACK DOG God's surprising response to depression

46 OUT OF DARKNESS

AND INTO THE LIGHT

/SIGNSMAG

CULTURE

54 CHRISTIANITY, THE

TRUE MYTH What myths and legends can teach us about truth

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

60 CHRISTMAS KINDNESS

IN LOGAN

FUN

62 CROSSWORD & SUDOKU

For the northern hemisphere of the world, Christmas is traditionally a season of hope and light in the middle of their dark winter. Here in Australia and New Zealand, we’re blessed with summer fun, barbeques, swimming and family holidays. For many of us, this world has been a dark place this year. Pandemic, war, inflation . . . it’s been a frightening and anxiety-inducing season. There has been extensive flooding on the east coast of Australia. My family have attended several funerals this year. The common flu seems to have got a boost this year. Every second week my daughter brings some illness or other home from day-care. Not to mention any of the personal struggles you might be facing: relationships, finance, mental health. I don’t know how you’ve experienced 2022, but for me it’s been tough. Yet, Christmas represents hope and the reintroduction of light into the darkness. Christmas for Christians celebrates Jesus: God in human form, entering the muck and grime of human existence to re-establish our connection with the Divine. It was a rescue mission designed to conquer death and shine a light in the darkness. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). This Christmas season, consider inviting Jesus into the difficult and dark parts of your life, bringing His light, joy and life. He’s willing, He’s already gone through the worst humanity could offer and He understands. If you’d like to know more, contact us at <Signsofthetimes.org.au/help>

Jarrod

JARROD STACKELROTH Editor

VOL 137 NO 13 ISSN 1038-9733 EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER Brad Kemp EDITOR Jarrod Stackelroth ASSOCIATE EDITOR Jesse Herford ASSISTANT EDITOR Zanita Fletcher COPYEDITOR Tracey Bridcutt GRAPHIC DESIGN Theodora Pau'u Talia Valderrama Nerise McQuillan PHONE +61 2 9847 2222 EMAIL info@signsofthetimes.org.au WEBSITE signsofthetimes.org.au ADDRESS Adventist Media PO Box 1115, Wahroonga New South Wales 2076 SUBSCRIPTIONS Kelli Geelan PHONE +61 3 5965 6300 Australia/New Zealand, $A26; South Pacific countries, $A41; Other countries $A51 Published since 1886, Signs of the Times is printed 11 times a year by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and is registered as a periodical. Seventh-day Adventist Church (SPD) Limited ABN 59 093 117 689 NOTE The inclusion of a person or their image within does not imply their endorsement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church or its beliefs. Unless otherwise stated, Bible verses are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, Anglicised. Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc®. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton. All rights reserved worldwide. COVER IMAGE: BrianAJackson, xxmmxx —Getty Images, Nerise McQuillan

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CU

R RENT

IRD & 4 WE WONDERFUL

WHAT IN THE WORLD

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

ENVIRONMENTAL HEROES

BRAIN MONITORING TECH

FIJI

AUSTRALIA

For decades, waste pickers have acted as de facto recycling systems in developing countries that lack established resources to sort through materials. However, waste pickers are often treated poorly. Fiji has become the first country in the Pacific to acknowledge their critical role as environmental heroes. They have renamed them "green workers" to bring their work to a more positive light. Workers will now also receive protection and training. —ABC News

UNDERWATER MESSAGING AMERICA

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed an app for acoustic-based communications that can be used under water with smartphones and smartwatches. This will be useful for people who participate in activities like snorkelling and scuba diving. Until now, hand signals have been the only option for communicating safety and directional information under water. —University of Washington 4

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JSTOCKBYTE—GETTY IMAGES, CSITDMS—PIXABAY EANINE S—PIXABAY, KHANCHIT KHIRISUTCHALUAL—GETTY IMAGES

Ankle-bracelet technology exists for offenders, but new technology has been created that can monitor, record and influence neural activity. This technology is already being used in health settings to treat Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. patients. It may be used in the future to monitor schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. It could also be used to monitor the brain of criminal offenders.—University of Sydney

DUCK SOLDIERS

SOUTH AFRICA

Cape Town has called on the service of 1600 Indian runner ducks to make wine production more sustainable and help keep vineyards free of pests. These ducks are flightless and have an extraordinary sense of smell. They are put on a 14-day-circuit through the vineyards and are given “annual leave” during the harvest to breed, forage on open pastures and swim in the lake.—CNN

AROUND THE WORLD

SKATE TO MASS In the week before Christmas, Venezuelans attend a service called Early Morning Mass. In the capital of Caracas, it’s customary for locals to strap on their skates and roller-skate to church each morning. The city closes the roads during this time to make it safer for skaters. KENTUCKY FOR CHRISTMAS Christmas isn’t a big deal in Japan. However, in 1974 KFC created a campaign promoting fried chicken as the perfect Christmas meal. “Kentucky for Christmas” has become an established holiday tradition. Families order ahead of time or wait in line for hours on Christmas day. SHOE ME YOUR LUCK On Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic, unmarried girls throw one of their shoes over their shoulders towards the front door. Legend says if the shoe lands with its toe pointing towards the door, the girl will get married in the following year. If it doesn’t, she won’t. RADISH-ART In the Mexican city of Oaxaca, an annual event known as “The Night of the Radishes” is held the days before Christmas. Individuals compete in a vegetable carving competition and everything from nativity scenes to wildlife to buildings is created out of radishes for thousands of visitors to see and judge.

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FA IT H

I

don’t remember when I first saw it but Disney’s animated version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame intrigued me. Not because of the rope-swinging hunchback or the story of his confrontation with evil but because of the role the church of Notre Dame itself played. Esmerelda flees an unjust arrest by retreating inside the cathedral and claiming sanctuary. The corrupt judge is powerless and can’t arrest her while she is in the church. It was a special place where God was worshipped, and that made it safe for anyone. It was a place you could go and be protected. That certainly wasn’t my experience with church when I was a kid. Mum would dress me in fancy, uncomfortable clothes and wedge my feet into tiny, shiny shoes. When we arrived, there weren’t many kids my age to play with. Once the service started, time seemed to slow down so that the 40-minute service felt like 3 hours, and I struggled to understand the preacher. Afterward, Mum would stand in the churchyard, chit-chatting with other women while my brother and I ran amok. The one redeeming feature of going to church was that Grandma was there, and if I behaved, she would give me 20 cents—money for candy! That probably gives you an idea of how long ago it was. Ultimately, I just didn’t “get” church and as soon as I left home, I stopped attending and did other things with my weekends.

More

THAN A BUILDING A chance encounter with a kind man brought me back to church . . . and to God. BY JUSTIN BONE

LEIFLINDING—PIXABAY

the church is not the building

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It turns out I made a classic mistake: I thought the church was a structure. If you ask most people to draw a church, they will sketch a big building with a cross on top. But in the first century AD, they didn’t have nice sanctuaries to meet in. In fact, DECEMBER 2022

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hands and feet of God

My wife wanted to start going back to church. We had just moved to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and she missed the community. I hadn’t really been since I left home so I was reluctant. One rainy day, she and I were out for a drive exploring the city and she decided she wanted to stop at the store. This is usually an extended stop, and somehow, I managed to leave my car’s headlights on while we were inside. By the time we got back to the car, the battery had 8

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gone dead. I sat there with a sinking feeling in my stomach, hoping that if I turned the engine over just one more time, the car would start. But it didn’t and we went from a sad rrrrrr sound to just a useless clicking. I looked at the rain splashing down and wondered what to do. We had just moved to Brisbane and didn’t know anyone. Before we even thought to call roadside assistance, someone tapped on the car window. I rolled it down, and a smiling man asked if I needed a jump-start. With relief, I accepted his offer and hopped out. Before you could say “jumper cables”, we had the car started. With a friendly wave, my benefactor nodded and headed off. I was grateful for his help and didn’t think any more of it. Fast-forward a few weeks and I eventually caved to my wife’s request to go to church. We picked the one closest to our home and attended on Saturday morning. Many things happened that day that shaped my feelings about church, but the main thing that happened was that I saw someone there whom I already knew! It sounds incredible, but it was the same gentleman who had stopped and given us a jump-start! I realised that he wasn’t just being friendly when he stopped to help us—he was being the hands and feet of Jesus. The body of Christ was active in my life and I hadn’t even realised it. Unsurprisingly, we began going to that church regularly and that friendly jump-starter became a close friend. God appointed Jesus to be

the “head over everything for the church” (Ephesians 1:22). And what about the believers? He says to them: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Joining a Christian church means becoming part of a community that is led by Christ. And that’s not just a pretty metaphor. The church exists to show the actions of Jesus to others in a real way, whether that’s through a food bank, social activities, Bible studies or a public worship service. The church is called to take an active part in the mission of God in the world.

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the Greek word used in the New Testament for church is ekklesia, which really means “a congregation of people”. Acts 2:46 describes the newly formed Christian church thus: “They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity” (NLT*). It shows that the early church was a community of people that met in many different places to eat and worship together. They were truly united in purpose. What unites the church is a common faith in God, not a building. Many church buildings were shut down during the recent pandemic, but that didn’t mean the church shut down. People kept meeting online, on social media or through their phones. The church carried on without a building. So, if the purpose of a church isn’t just to meet once a week in a building to sing hymns, what is the church actually for?

some things are better together

What unites the church is a common faith in God, not a building.

You may not have a set of jumper cables, but the Bible says that everyone brings something distinctive to a church that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Ephesians chapter four goes on to say we have been given gifts “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (verses 12,13). So, the purpose of the church is not only to do good for others but also to support and lift one another. As I’m sure you already know, some things are just better with other people involved. I learned this when I was young. Dad is a football fan, and he loves watching games over the weekend. However, I didn’t DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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understand the attraction, and the he explained that the tempters see games left me cold. Sure, the players the church as “spread out through were skilled and it was interesting all time and space and rooted in to watch, but I felt a certain detacheternity, terrible as an army with ment. That was until Dad took me banners” (chapter 2). to my first live game. Because the church was founded Walking onto the grounds and by God, it is a force for good in the finding our seats in the stands, I world—a place of sanctuary. Is it could feel the atmosphere building. perfect? Not at all, but it is led by Once play had started, the roar of the One who is, and so for me, it is a crowd would rise and fall as though safe place where I unite with others we were all speaking with one voice. in one faith, one Spirit and one I felt connected baptism. I sense that to the people God dwells in our around me in midst. I’m taking a way I hadn’t this opportunity experienced to invite you to before. There church—not the Because the church was something building, but the unseen happencommunity, a place was founded by God, ing at the game where you can meet that drew us it is a force for good in with “glad and together, united sincere hearts” the world—a place of in one common (Acts 2:46). cause. It was a sanctuary. surprise to me that church could Bone supports and trains pastors and congrebe exactly the same way because when Justin gations around Victoria, Australia, for the Seventh-day a community comes together, united Adventist Church. He is passionate about helping people understand the Bible better. by their faith in God, that same sense of connection is there. I started If you'd like to connect with a local church, email info@signsofthetimes.org.au or visit signsofthetimes. looking at church with new eyes. org.au/help and select the "Get in touch with a local In one of C. S. Lewis’s more church" option. popular books, The Screwtape Letters, * Scripture quotations marked NLT are from the Holy one of the devil’s tempters speaks to Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. his nephew about the church and Used with permission of Tyndale House Publishers, tells him that humans often look at Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. church in the same way that I used to when I was a kid, seeing only people, hymns and a building. But

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W

ELL B EING

SURVIVING

THE FESTIVE

SEASON

y h t l a e h g n i & Stay The festive season can often be the unhealthiest time of the year for many of us. Here are some tips for how we can enjoy ourselves yet keep our health intact.

H

ave you ever had to secretly undo your buttons after a meal? Perhaps the food looked too appetising to resist and you found yourself immersed in feasting pleasures as though the next meal was three days away. And that was just lunch. The evening was already reserved for another Christmas dinner with old friends. Promising yourself that you will only be eating

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a small portion, your nose and eyes nevertheless lingered over your favourite creamed potato scallops and crème brulee, and you succumbed. This was only the beginning of the month and you know that there is a line of feasting dates before the year ends. How can one remain slim and not miss out on the special delicacies during the festive season? The holidays have become the

LISEGAGNE-GETTY IMAGES

BY DR CHRISTIANA LEIMENA

season of indulgence that revolves around socialising, gifting and feasting on big meals, as well as gorging on gifts of delectable sweets and snacks. More often than not it is easy to find ourselves with a weight gain and expanded waist at the end of the month. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this here! But this doesn’t mean we have to yet again be another yuletide victim. Here are five tips to conquer the

overindulgence while still delighting in the feasting and socialising during the holiday period.

mindful feasting

Practising mindful eating is the first simple strategy to enjoy your favourite meal without getting carried away. Did you know it takes 20 minutes from the time you begin eating for the brain to send out the signal that DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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eat a rainbow

Benjamin Franklin says, “Eat to live, not live to eat.” Eating to live means considering your food as fuel for the body. We make sure that our cars run on the right fuel. In the same way, our bodies are engineered to run well on the right fuel. While we are in the festive season, the idea of being healthy is often thrown out the window as though we can’t enjoy foods if they are healthy. In fact, healthy food allows you to think clearer, have greater energy, have a 14

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better immune system and feel fresh. Plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit and beans contain antioxidants and fibre to strengthen your immune system, to fuel your microbiome, to move your bowel and to reduce inflammation.1 Foods higher in fibre break down slower compared to processed refined carbs. Make high-fibre foods such as leafy greens, whole grains, beans, sprouts and nuts the main contender on your plate and eat smaller servings of high-starch foods like potatoes, white rice, white bread

are larger than our stomach. The centenarians in Okinawa, Japan, hold the principle of Hara hachi bu, which means “eat until you’re 80 per cent full”.2 While many people say “I’m full” at the end of a meal, the Okinawan says “I’m no longer hungry.” Eating to 80 per cent means you don't eat to the point you can no longer move. Instead, leave a little room and stop when you're just satisfied. Not only do the Okinawans have lower rates of chronic diseases,

with the pleasure of taste and texture than fullness. Pause before you reach for a second serving. Eat until you’re no longer hungry.

they are also one of the longest-lived people, beyond 100 years of age.3 So how can you do the hara hachi bu? Think first of what is on the menu. Ask yourself, do I need to have everything? Remember the rainbow challenge. Instead of covering your whole plate, cover two-thirds of your plate with food. Aim to be satisfied

when we are not hungry and when we do so, we induce our stomach to continuously churn foods. We make our pancreas continuously release insulin and our cells to continually uptake glucose. Before the end of the season, the scales make us feel guilty. But when we rest between meals, we allow the insulin to go down and the

save the treats

During the festive season, you might be blessed with friends offering you scrumptious culinary gifts. Upon receiving them, delay the gratification to eat these treats at your meal time. This is not deprivation but smart gratification. We often eat

Did you know that it takes 20 minutes from the time you begin eating for the brain to send out the signal that it is enough?

and flour. Give yourself a challenge this season. When choosing from a menu, eat at least four different coloured plant-based foods rather than the usual yellow fried foods. Be adventurous and colourful with your next meal.

do the 80 per cent

When it comes to seeing our favourite foods, at times our eyes

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you've had enough? Have you ever eaten your meal, or even a snack, while engrossed in a conversation, in front of the TV, at your work desk, while listening to a presentation or even while you’re driving? All of us have at one time or another been guilty. But is this something you do regularly? Mindless eating is when we gulp down the food either too fast, or without thinking, missing the pleasure of the moment, the aroma, the colours, the flavours and the textures. This habit can cause overeating. During the festive season when most of our activities revolve around food, engage with your meal. After finishing the first plate, check in with your brain before you reach for another helping by pausing for five minutes. Ask yourself “am I actually still hungry”? It’s important to get to know our hunger and satiety signs before, during and after eating. We might just find that the zipper might not have to be secretly loosened.

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fat cells to release the stored sugar for energy.4 This might sound too much, but try the challenge this holiday in saving the treats for your dessert at your mealtime.

combine rest and movement

The holiday period can be all about food, but why can’t it also be about doing well in daily rest and movement? Being exposed to daylight by walking outside in the morning and during the day improves our body’s natural circadian rhythm. Exposure to daylight allows our brain to induce our body to trigger the waking up and sleeping time. The combination of light exposure and movement of at least 30 minutes of brisk daily walking and strengthening exercise allows us to feel tired, sleep well and wake up well.5 Furthermore, sleeping for seven-to-nine hours daily (not less and not more) controls the regulation of our food hormone friends: ghrelin and leptin. When we have enough sleep for seven-to-nine hours, the body has a higher release of the leptin hormone to trigger us to stop eating and lowers the ghrelin hormone that induces appetite.6 Lack of movement outside can disrupt our sleep. Lack of sleep will deregulate the balance of these hormones with higher ghrelin levels to increase our appetite and increase the grazing behaviour in-between meals. Give your body a break this holiday season by balancing the act of eating, movement and sleep. Suggest a scenic coastal walk or outdoor picnic as part of your social 16

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gathering. Choose to make the time to sleep between seven an nine hours and move for 30 minutes per day. You might just feel better, look better and still have fun. As Virginia Woolf said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.” The key word is “well”. In intentionally choosing your food well, practicing self-control and getting enough sleep and physical exercise, you will likely enjoy the holiday period with less guilt and experience more joy and satisfaction. Christiana Leimena has worked in cardiovascular research in molecular cardiology and hypertension. She obtained her PhD through the University of New South Wales and did her postdoctoral training at Loma Linda University, California. She has a passion in educating and promoting whole-person health and nutrition. She loves the outdoors and cooking. 1. Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health. "Nutrition and Immunity". The Nutrition Source [Internet]. [cited Oct 10 2022]. Available from: <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/>. 2. Dan Buettner. "Hara Hachi Bu: Enjoy Food and Lose Weight With This Simple Japanese Phrase". 2011 (Updated 2018). [cited Oct 10 2022]. Available from: <https://www.bluezones.com/2017/12/hara-hachi-buenjoy-food-and-lose-weight-with-this-simple-phrase/>. 3. Willcox BJ, Willcox DC. "Caloric restriction, caloric restriction mimetics, and healthy aging in Okinawa: controversies and clinical implications". Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014 Jan;17(1):51-8. doi:10.1097/ mco.0000000000000019 4. Harvard Health Publishing Staff. "Intermittent fasting: The positive news continues". 2021. [cited Oct 10 2022]. Available from: <https://www.health. harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156>. 5. Murray K, Godbole S, Natarajan L, Full K, Hipp JA, Glanz K, et al. The relations between sleep, time of physical activity, and time outdoors among adult women. PLoS One. 2017;12(9):e0182013. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0182013 6. Chaput JP, Tremblay A. Adequate sleep to improve the treatment of obesity. Cmaj. 2012 Dec 11;184(18):1975-6. doi:10.1503/cmaj.120876

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FA IT H

YOU DON'T NEED A GIFT THIS

Christmas

POVOZNIUK—GETTY IMAGES

In the busyness of the festive season, it's easy to miss the gift offered to each of us: the gift of God Himself. BY BRIANNA WATSON

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Christ the Saviour was born.

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is always the hardest to shop for. And then you hear it. “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright . . . Christ the Saviour is born! Christ the Saviour is born.” The lyrics of many carols tell us the age-old story: the story of Christ’s birth.

the road to Bethlehem

Under Roman decree, Joseph and his betrothed, Mary, travelled south from Galilee to Judea, from their hometown of Nazareth down

EVGENIYSHKOLENKO—GETTY IMAGES

L

ike it or not, I guarantee that if you have been to shops or turned on the radio over the past month, you’ve heard them. You may have found yourself singing along and turning up the volume when your favourite comes on or maybe you’ve been changing stations and shaking your head because that same carol seems to be following you everywhere you go, as if each store is waiting for you to walk in so they can press play— and now it’s playing on repeat over and over in your head. I’ll admit it: I’ve done a fair bit of shopping in my time. But never have I been at the shops and heard “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” playing through the PA. Yet despite the increasingly secular society that we find ourselves living in, in December each year something pretty incredible happens. You might be walking down the bread aisle at your local supermarket or looking for the perfect present for that family member who

to Bethlehem. At a distance of almost 150 kilometres, this was neither a quick trip nor a celebratory babymoon. It was a gruelling necessity: a week of walking through the barren desert, placing each sand-covered foot in front of the other, day after day. For Joseph, he was returning to the town of his ancestors, however weighing on his mind was the uncertainty of the future. His future, Mary’s future and that of their child. Where would they stay when they arrived in Bethlehem?

When would the child be born? How would he care for and provide for his new wife and child? For Mary, she was following her husband across the desert. Heavily pregnant, she would have been exhausted and no doubt each step she took felt heavier than the last. Anxious but expectant, she was soon to give birth to her first child. Now unable to see her dusty toes, the prominent bump she saw was evidence of God’s plan for her life and that of the child she held within. Finally arriving in Bethlehem, the town was abuzz with weary travellers from every corner of the land. With so many guests having arrived over the course of the week, the little town of Bethlehem was unable to accommodate the new arrivals. There was no room at the Inn. Relegated to a stable and surrounded by the animals and their stench, Mary gave birth to her firstborn Son. No crib for a bed, she wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in an animal feed trough. Christ the Saviour was born.

the Prince that was promised

For generations the birth of Christ had been foretold. From Samuel to Isaiah and Jeremiah to Micah, these ancient Jewish prophets had all foretold His birth—Jesus, Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Saviour to all people. But Jesus had been born in a manger. His parents had not even DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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They would not have dreamed of meeting Him, let alone be invited to the place of His birth.

they were, wearing the clothes they had worn all day, stained with the stench of sweat and sheep. Mary and Joseph welcomed them into the stable and into the presence of their newborn Son. They were not invited to lavish gifts upon Jesus. They were invited to see Him and share in His story. Moved by their experience, they shared their story and spread the word to all who would listen.

the gift that keeps giving

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been able to secure a room for His birth. Upon His entrance into this world as a newborn baby, He was not greeted by religious scholars and kings; nor was His birth announced across the city. There was no “little drummer boy” as the carol suggests. Instead, in the hills nearby, an angel of the Lord appeared to some shepherds who were living out in the fields caring for their flocks. They were terrified but the angel comforted them saying, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12). These shepherds had just been invited to meet Jesus. But what would they bring to meet Him? They had probably heard at least one of the prophecies foretelling the birth of the Messiah, but they were just shepherds, not religious scholars. They would not have dreamed of meeting Him, let alone be invited to the place of His birth. It was late at night and they were still at work. They had sheep to care for and protect, but they did not hesitate. They hurried off to find Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, lying in the manger. They did not stop on the way to buy a gift or bring an offering for the Lord like the wise men later did. No gold. No frankincense. No myrrh. They came just as

Just as the shepherds were invited to visit the baby Jesus, we are invited to encounter Jesus for ourselves. Unlike that family member who doesn’t appreciate the effort that went into purchasing the perfect gift for them, Jesus does not expect anything in return for His gift to us. According to the biblical story, God chose Jesus to be born in a stable in Bethlehem with only cattle and shepherds to welcome Him, not because of what we might one day give to Him, but because of what He

was able to give to us. He lived His life on this earth to give us the gift of eternal life, and that is not a gift that we can earn. The shepherds didn’t worry about whether or not they were worthy to meet the Messiah because they had been personally invited to meet Him. They came to Him, just as they were. They had nothing to give Jesus, only themselves and their commitment to come to see Him. This Christmas, don’t worry about the wise men and what they had to offer baby Jesus. Remember the shepherds. Remember that you don’t need to buy Him a gift and you cannot do anything to earn your invitation. Know that you have been personally invited to share your life with Jesus. You are invited to come, just as you are, to dedicate your life to Him and to receive the gift that He has already purchased for you: the gift of eternal life. Brianna Watson is a solicitor specialising in family law based in Adelaide, South Australia. She is married with two corgis. DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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BEVVIES

Without

Non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits are becoming more in-vogue than they ever have before. What's happening with this new trend and should we partake?

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THE BUZZ

BY JESSE HERFORD

A

s the balmy Australian summer took a chilly turn, I found myself sitting one day in a pub in Jindabyne, New South Wales with a friend attempting to escape the bitter autumn weather. As I took in the ambience, I reflected on what was a largely alien environment to me. The tables were sticky, the windows

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were dirty and walls were adorned with an assortment of mounted deer heads. The punters were a combination of red-faced middle-aged men, young rural folk and gamblers shuffling in and out of the pokies room. The dull roar of conversation was just loud enough to drown out the horse racing on TV. As I sat with

my companion, I did what any good Australian would do at a pub: I sipped a beer. As I partook, I couldn’t help but reflect upon how we got here.

the "good decade"

The history of alcohol consumption in Australia/NZ has its roots in the British Empire and colonialism.

This should come as no surprise when we consider one the empire’s most successful cultural exports: the English pub. Alcohol became an important part of life in the colonies, with it featuring in many of our most popular poems and songs. The consumption of alcohol reached a fever pitch in the ’70s and ’80s, when civil DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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alcohol would become a fixture in such an aimless and bored culture. In the 1950s, the average Brit drank around 137 pints of beer per year. By 2004, that figure was up to around 333 pints.2 It was in the ’90s that pub and club culture became mainstream. Whether it was Lambrini, Apple Sourz or Smirnoff, there were new drinks being invented to appeal to any demographic and every price point.3 From the pub to the university campus, alcohol became a fixture of social life.

a shifting landscape

Fast-forward to today and this picture has changed dramatically. Alcohol usage has gone down across all types of consumption, from social drinkers to the most faithful pub patrons. The number of people who identify as non-drinkers is also on the rise. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to be honest. After all, we’re

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and political upheaval caused many to drink harder than they ever had before. It could be argued, though, that it was the ’90s that changed the way we drank. The world had just gone through the Iran-Iraq War, the Chernobyl disaster and the collapse of the Soviet Union. For many, entering the ’90s was like reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a time of unprecedented economic growth, shrinking interest rates and fewer global conflicts than any time in recent history. For many, the ’90s was as cultural commentator Douglas Coupland described it: the “Good Decade”.1 And yet, for many people, the ’90s was not defined by “good times”, but by boredom. The lack of global conflicts and an economic upturn lulled many into a sense of complacency and the cultural mirror of the films and TV shows of the era reflects this. The Matrix, Office Space and Fight Club reflect a restlessness and dissatisfaction with the mundane, with Friends and Seinfeld both leaning on a comedic style of overdramatising the often ludicrous and petty problems of their middle-class protaganists. It’s no wonder then that

no longer in the ’90s. Most of us don’t have the time or disposable income that we may have had 20 years ago. The rise of the internet likewise has impacted alcohol use: teens today are more connected than ever before (thereby taking away some of the necessity for the pub) and are far more aware of the adverse effects of alcohol than their Gen X counterparts.4 The NZ Alcohol Beverages Council reports that Kiwis drank 25 per cent less in 2021 than they did in 1986,5 with Drinkwise reporting that between 2007 and 2017, the number of Australians who chose to abstain from alcohol altogether almost doubled.6 A survey in the UK found that university-aged students who socialised with their friends without drinking reported higher quality social life, increased self-esteem and a more productive, stable life.7 There’s still a challenge around the stigma of not participating in

drinking socially. Some young people still feel pressured to drink (even if they have reservations) for fear of being “left out”. This is further exacerbated by toxic behaviour where young men are told (directly or indirectly) that if you don’t drink, you’re not “a man”.8

new kids on the block

There is, however, a shifting tide. Movements like “conscious clubbing”—a dance rave where drugs and alcohol are strictly prohibited—are gaining popularity among the Millennial and Gen-Z generations who no longer want to deal with the fallout that comes from drinking and drug culture. Though teens are still drinking, they’re drinking noticeably less than their older counterparts. Alcohol companies are noticing. Non-alcoholic spirit sales went up 600 per cent from 2020 to 2021, with one American online alcohol retailer reporting a 166 per cent increase in the number of non-alcoholic products available compared to 2019.9 In Australia, low, mid and non-alcoholic products now account for more than 27 per cent of Asahi’s beer sales.10 Carlton Zero was one of the first in the game but the popularity of their beer and beers like it have ensured that many major players, from James Squire, Heineken, Great Northern, Peroni, Corona and more are all getting into the game of making beverages without the buzz. It’s not just the big players who are getting a slice of the pie, though. DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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the drinkers

If you drink alcohol, then non-alcoholic drinks provide a great opportunity to enjoy the pastime without the negative consequences. If you can get past the slightly-different taste (and it’s far better than it was a few years ago), the propect of drinking without getting drunk is a win-win. 28

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More than just a fleeting trend, nonalcoholic beverages are here to stay and are fast becoming big business.

For many of us, having a drink with your mates is a high point of the week—not so much the morning after. Being able to enjoy the social experience without the hangover, not to mention that you’ll be drinking, on average, half the carbs compared to a normal beer—that’s worth making the switch in my books.

of course, non-alcoholic. The friend I shared it with is a drinker, though as a young father he is trying to cut down for the sake of his family. For him, non-alcoholic beer is a brilliant swap-out to enjoy the pastime without the negative consequences of real alcohol. Though it may not be for everyone, I think the trend we’re currently experiencing is for the better, on the whole. Whether you’re a nondrinker, a pub regular or somewhere in-between, there’s more room than ever before to make wiser, more conscionable decisions about what to drink and what to refrain from.

the non-drinkers

If you don’t typically partake in suds, shooters or bubbly, it is a little more difficult to justify taking up the non-alcoholised versions. If you don’t like or aren’t used to the taste, there is very little in the non-alcoholic catalogue that will fill the void better than any other non-water drink you might usually enjoy. That is, unless your situation is anything like mine. The beer I mentioned sipping that cold autumn day in Jindabyne at the beginning of this article was,

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Smaller companies like Sobah, Heaps Normal, Bridge Road and more are making it big in this brave new world. Heaps Normal in particular reportedly raised $8.5 million in capital recently11 to fund their expanding enterprise, all the while earning the award for the world’s best no and low alcohol pale ale in the World Beer Awards 2022 (we reached out to Heaps Normal but they declined to comment). More than just a fleeting trend, non-alcoholic beverages are here to stay and are fast becoming big business. As someone who did not grow up around alcohol, the thought of drinking it conscience-free was strange to me. Growing up, my father freely told my siblings and I stories of his misspent youth where alcohol was more often than not the villain of the story. That, and a conviction formed through reading the Bible resulted with me happily staying away from all alcoholic beverages well into my adult life. So, how should we think about this brave new world of alcohol-removed beverages? I’ll split my final thoughts into two categories:

90s-wkd-lambrini-hooch> 4. <theconversation.com/why-young-people-aredrinking-less-and-what-older-drinkers-can-learnfrom-them-133020> 4. <nzabc.org.nz> 5. <drinkwise.org.au/wp-content/uploads/DrinkWiseAustralian-Drinking-Habits-2007-vs-2017-web.pdf> 6. <onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ dar.12610> 7. <link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11469-0179848-6> 8. <usatoday.com/story/money/food/2022/06/22/ delicious-drink-without-buzz-non-alcoholic-beverages-rise/9119514002/> 9. <intheblack.cpaaustralia.com.au/innovation/ why-non-alcoholic-beverages-industry-booming> 10. <afr.com/companies/retail/zero-alcohol-brewerheaps-normal-raises-8-5m-to-fuel-growth> 11. <broadsheet.com.au/national/food-and-drink/ article/heaps-normals-quiet-xpa-wins-big-worldsbest-beer-awards-2022>

Jesse Herford is a pastor and associate editor for the Australian/New Zealand edition of Signs of the Times. He lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, Carina and their miniature schnauzer, Banjo. 1. <notice.aenetworks.comhttps//www.history.com/ news/1990s-the-good-decade> 2. <mosaicscience.com/story/peak-booze> 3. <thesun.co.uk/fabulous/4297771/alcoholic-drinksDECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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FA IT H

Hi! I’m Jesse and I don’t have all the answers. As a pastor, there are questions I’ve encountered over and over. They’re sometimes about theology and the Bible, but more often they’re about everyday life, and they can’t be answered easily or quickly. If you’ve never had the opportunity to ask a pastor tough questions this is the place to ask them, and I’ll do my best to respond honestly, authentically and biblically. Is it true that James the brother of Jesus was actually called Joshua?—Ellen, WA, Australia You're almost right! James the brother of Jesus was often called "James the Just" but his real name in Latin was "Iacobus", in Greek "Iákōbos" and in Hebrew "Ya'akov", which can be Anglicised as "Jacob". Interestingly enough, Jesus gets His name from the Greek "Iēsoûs", though a more accurate translation in Hebrew is "Yēšūa" (simplified "Yeshua"), which is a shorter variant of the common Hebrew name "Yəhōšūa"ʿor "Joshua".

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SIGNSOFTHETIMES.ORG.AU/ASKJESSE

I know the Christmas story like everyone else but I don't know if I can believe it's true. —Jono, Hawke's Bay, NZ I completely understand your hesitance! The Christmas story, as Christians tell it, is inherently miraculous. Think of the elements: a young virgin woman is inexplicably found pregnant. She and her husband travel to the village of Bethlehem, find a room in a stable, Mary gives birth and then they are visited by shepherds and three eastern mystics who have travelled from far away to witness the fulfilment of an obscure prophecy. It's a story that 2000 years later requires some imagination and faith to fully believe. Often we get caught up with the question: "did the Christmas story really happen?" while ignoring the question: "if it did happen, what does that mean for the world and for me?" (1) It's Political. Emperor Augustus was the ruler of the Roman Empire at the time of Christ's birth. He was Julius Caesar's great-nephew and is associated with the Pax Romana: the Peace of Rome. He was called the "Prince of Peace" and "Saviour of the World" because of the way he brought peace and stability to the empire following the tumult of Julius Caesar's death. When Jesus enters the world and is declared to be both a Saviour and the Prince of Peace, it is a direct challenge to the established power of Rome. (2) It's Social. Jesus' parents struggled to find accommodation in Bethlehem,

which speaks to the class struggle of the day. The shepherds (considered ceremonially unclean because of the nature of their work) and three wise men (considered ceremonially unclean because of their ethnic status) were the first to witness the Messiah's birth. Not only that, Jesus becomes a refugee not long after His birth to escape murder at the hands of the jealous Herod. From the very beginning, Jesus' story is marked by issues of social justice. (3) It's Cosmic. A star guiding three wise men across a desert. A choir of angels bursting into the skies above the hills outside Bethlehem. A virgin giving birth to a god-child. A divine being becoming a helpless baby. They seem like the elements of a fairy tale but if they're true, the ramifications are startling. In simple terms, they reveal a God who so longs for human relationship that He became one of us. On a big-picture level, the story of Christmas is about the Creator of the universe setting aside His divinity and embracing our humanity. On a personal level, it's an invitation for you and I to put our trust in the God who holds all things together; the God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that we could experience new and abundant life forever. I don't know about you, but I need that hope now more than ever.

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What Saint Nicholas, the original Santa, can teach us about giving this Christmas. BY ZANITA FLETCHER

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S A M T IS R H C T S R I F THE GIFT-GIVER

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Christmas has become an obligation, hence the high chance of receiving things we neither want nor care for each year. Though we might long to find the perfect gifts for our friends and family, many of us don’t give the time or attention required for that to be the case. We know we give gifts because it shows we love people. However, that sentiment can easily go amiss if the item holds little significance. Gifts symbolise attention to the details of one’s life. Yet how many have you received that you are thankful for? How many have you held onto? Danny Silk, author of the book Keep Your Love On, says, “The thought behind the gift is valued far more than

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n writing this article, I asked a handful of people what the worst thing they had ever received for Christmas was. The answers I received were interesting, to say the least. An unwanted pet. Mothballs. A mini golf mat for the bathroom. Expired chocolates. A box of hotel shampoos and soaps. Then there were the classics: underwear, calendars, socks, and the list went on. The gifts stood out to these individuals because, for the most part, they weren’t thoughtful or didn’t hold any significance. Or in the words of the man who received a packet of blank postcards, “What am I going to do with this?” For many, gift-giving around

the cost, because that’s what makes the gift a symbol of devotion.” Throughout history, gifts have been given for all sorts of reasons: to show respect, to win affection, as a sign of worship, to promote marital bonds, to get something in return or to reward good behaviour. In the Bible, three wise men brought frankincense, myrrh and gold to baby Jesus. During that period, it was a common custom to give gifts as a sign of respect to royalty or one who was destined to be a ruler. Nowadays, the icon of gifts is none other than Santa. Most children could tell you about this chubby, white-bearded man who embarks on a journey

For many, gift-giving around Christmas has become an obligation.

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from the North Pole to deliver gifts to well-behaved children every year. But the life of this man and his inspiration is far more impressive than the fairy tale passed down and offers some insight into how we can give more thoughtfully.

Nicholas of Myra

The modern Santa was born in Myra in Asia Minor, now known as Demre, Turkey, around 280 AD. His name was Nicholas. Though there are obviously no photographs left behind of him, the earliest and most accurate reports we have of his appearance note little else but his plain attire and broken nose. Nicholas was born to wealthy parents who raised him as a devout Christian. His parents died when he was a young boy, leaving him with a lot of money. Rather than spend or keep it, Nicholas heeded Jesus’ words to “give to the poor” (Luke 12:33) and “care for orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). From a young age, Nicholas used his inheritance to meet the needs of the poor, the sick and the suffering. He became known for his generosity in helping people and secretly giving gifts, especially to children and sailors. As well as that, the doors of his house were always open and he encouraged people to come in if they needed a place to feel safe, a meal to eat or a friend to give company. Though we don’t see this in Santa, Nicholas also had a reputation for being strong and fiery. He lived when DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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a gift-giver unmasked

The most well-known story of Saint Nicholas’ good deeds is of a man who was so poor he couldn’t afford dowries for his three daughters. In those days, a dowry was a sum of money, or a valuable possession offered to the prospective husband by the bride’s parents. Without a dowry, the women were unlikely to marry and their lives would become extremely difficult—slavery or prostitution likely becoming their outcome. Saint Nicholas heard of the family and secretly delivered three bags of gold on different occasions. After the second bag was delivered, the father was desperate to find out who was being so generous. So he stayed awake every night until he caught Saint Nicholas tossing the third bag through an open window. The bag landed next to the fire where a stocking had been hung to dry. Saint Nicholas did not like his deeds to receive attention, so he begged the man not to tell anyone what he had done. But the man was so excited that he went out and spread the word. Many stories and legends were recorded about Saint Nicholas. 36

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This Christmas, look for how you can follow Saint Nicholas’ lead, whether to a stranger or someone you love.

Stories where he saved people from starvation, helped those who had been wronged, looked after orphans and encouraged other Christians. Gerry Bowler, historian and author of Santa Claus: A Biography, noted he became known as “The Magical Gift Bringer”.

Saint Nick's legacy

Though we can admire the Santa of today for his jovial demeanour and deep potbelly laugh, he represents a shadow of the legacy Saint Nicholas lived out. Saint Nicholas strived to follow Jesus’ example, who as author and Bible commentator, Ellen White wrote, “mingled with people as one who desired their good . . . showed sympathy for them, ministered their needs, and won their confidence”. My hope is that you are already seeking ways to help the poor and those not so close to home—and if

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the Roman Emperor Diocletian persecuted Christians, but Nicholas didn’t shy away. He fought for church doctrines and tried to stop Bibles from being burnt. As a result, he spent years in prison, where he continued to give away his food and encourage those alongside him in the cells.

not, maybe Saint Nicholas’ life will inspire you. But even when considering our friends and family, we can learn from his example to give more thoughtfully and be attentive to what’s missing in people's lives. One way to do this is by considering individuals' love languages. Author Gary Chapman says that learning other people’s love languages allows us to focus on their needs rather than our own. “Different people with different personalities give and receive love in different ways,” he said. The five love languages are: quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, physical touch and acts of service. Rather than items that catch our attention because they’re shiny or have been cleverly marketed, we can give gifts that demonstrate our level of care for someone. This could include giving an experience, writing a letter of appreciation,

making a personal gift, a night away or giving a service like ready-made meals or a babysitter. This Christmas, look for how you can follow Saint Nicholas’ lead, whether to a stranger or someone you love. Give gifts that demonstrate to someone, “I get you”, “I see you”, “I love you.” Saint Nicholas didn't give gifts to show off his wealth, win favour or because it was a cultural norm. His gifts weren’t dependent on how good someone had or hadn’t been. He gave gifts that met people's needs and, as a result, brought people the utmost joy and made them feel deeply cared for—and that’s why they called him The Magical Gift Bringer. Zanita Fletcher is an assistant editor for Signs of the Times. She writes from the Gold Coast, Queensland.

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ELL B EING

10 WAYS TO GET MORE WHOLE-GRAIN FIBRE INTO YOUR DIET:

WHOLE GRAINS FOR HEART HEALTH

 Swap white bread for a brown, grainy loaf.  Choose whole-grain and high-fibre breakfast cereals.  Swap mashed potato for a side of quinoa or brown rice.  Add some pearl barley to hearty winter soups.  Try buckwheat pancakes for a weekend breakfast.  Enjoy whole-grain crackers with peanut butter or avocado.  Swap white pasta or rice for whole-grain pasta and brown rice.  Add grains such as quinoa or buckwheat to a winter salad.  Add whole-grain cereal such as oats to your smoothies.  Experiment with your favourite baking recipes—replace half the white flour with wholegrain flour.

All fibre is not created equal. Some types are especially good for your heart. BY SANITARIUM HEALTH FOOD COMPANY

W

e are now learning that some sources of fibre may be better than others, especially when it comes to reducing inflammation naturally and lowering the risk of heart disease. A new study by researchers at Columbia University followed the lives of 4125 people for 26 years, tracking their diet and testing their blood. It revealed that eating more fibre helped lower their risk of cardiovascular disease. What’s particularly interesting about this study is that the researchers evaluated specific sources of fibre. Fibre can come from fruit, veggies, legumes (dried peas, beans and lentils), grains, seeds and nuts—virtually any plant food. However, the researchers found that cereal fibre from whole grains was consistently linked to a lower risk of heart disease and less inflammation—something they didn’t find with the fibre from fruit and veggies. While more research is needed, it adds to growing evidence that there is something very special about the cereal fibre occurring in whole grains. Many of the cereal fibres and antioxidant compounds found in grains are unique and often found in higher amounts than in any other plant-based foods. In the gut, they feed gut bacteria and deliver long-lasting antioxidant protection

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the central message

MARILYNA—GETTY IMAGES

why is cereal fibre so good?

where it’s needed most, including to areas of the colon that are prone to cancerous changes. Fibre, including cereal fibre, also helps the gut to produce short-chain fatty acids, which can help reduce the risk of inflammation, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Whole grains can complement the goodness you get from fruit, veggies and other plant foods. Eating two to three servings of wholegrain foods each day can reduce your risk of developing chronic disease by 20–30 per cent. So, look for ways to eat more whole-grain foods, such as whole-grain breakfast cereals, rice and delicious grainy bread.

TIP:

Increase your fibre intake slowly, as increase in fib a sudden re may lead to abdominal discomfort associated w ith bloating. Make the switches to your diet gradually, an d remember to drink plen ty of water!

Article courtesy of Sanitarium Health Food Company. Visit sanitarium.com. au or sanitarium.co.nz and subscribe to Recipe of the Week for weekly recipe inspiration in your email inbox. DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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THE

PROPHET AND THE

Black Dog We often don’t realise that great leaders struggle with depression as much as the rest of us. As it turns out, the Black Dog even affected a great biblical prophet.

CARTERART, NARIN—VECTEEZY, FREEPIK

BY REBECCA CHEERS

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not just an isolated challenge

Many high-profile names have battled depression, from Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill to Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. According to the Black Dog Institute, one in seven Australians will battle depression at some point in their lives, with the Ministry of Health reporting one in five adults in New Zealand. And yet, somehow there is still a stigma attached—as there is with any mental illness. Sadly, stigma often becomes the lock on the cage of depression that prevents us getting the help and support we need. In some circles we encounter the perception that depression is a “personal failing”. We feel that we just need to “snap out of it” or that we perhaps just need a little more faith. However, these attitudes 42

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overlook the reality that depression is more than just a response to negative events or personal struggles. Clinical depression involves an imbalance in brain chemistry.2

Many high-profile names have battled depression, from Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill to Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.

the prophet

Our modern society often fails to grasp the physical aspects of depression. Many of us forget that we can’t just “pep talk” a person out of it. Yet, writings from thousands of years ago reveal incredible insight into the dynamics of brain chemistry and physical needs in relation to depression. One such example comes from the book of 1 Kings which appears in the Old Testament of the Bible. The story centres around a man named Elijah. Elijah is an Israelite prophet and is portrayed as a hero of faith and courage. In chapter 18, Elijah has a dramatic, public showdown with his opponents. The nation of Israel has been worshipping the pagan god Ba’al. The confrontation happens on the top of a mountain with Elijah on one side and 50 prophets of Ba’al on the other. Elijah comes out victorious after a breathtaking demonstration of the power of God so by every account, Elijah should have been on cloud nine! The only problem is that Queen Jezebel—bitter and embarrassed over losing in such a humiliating fashion—is out to have him murdered. King Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done (including how he personally killed all 50 prophets of Ba’al). So Jezebel sent a messenger

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any of us have wrestled with depression at some point in our lives. I felt it stalking me when my son was stillborn several years ago. Amid the grief and pain, I sensed it nearby—a kind of deeper despair that threatened to strip me of my ability to care for my then twoyear-old daughter. It loomed like a pit that I feared I would fall into if I got too close. Clinical depression, as defined by the DSM-5, is more than feeling down about your circumstances. It’s marked by at least two weeks of low mood, a lack of interest in normal activities, a loss of appetite, indecision and sometimes even thoughts of self-harm or suicide .1

to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them” (1 Kings 19:1,2). After the incredible experience Elijah has just had, the reader might expect him to trust God rather than worry about the queen’s malicious plans. But that’s not what happened. Elijah wasn’t coping. Overwhelmed and depressed, he ran for his life into the wilderness. The wilderness was a refuge for the outcast; a place of hiding for those who were being hunted. Elijah was no stranger to the desert—it had been his home for three-and-a-half years while he hid from the wrath of the king during a prolonged drought. Perhaps the lengthy time of stressed conditions had affected his mental wellbeing. In recent times, studies have shown that when we endure

stress for a prolonged period the balance of our brain chemistry can be affected. When cortisol levels are elevated for a significant time and then we gain reprieve, our serotonin and dopamine levels can take time to recalibrate. The result is that prolonged coping can plunge some individuals into depression.3 Maybe this is what happened to Elijah. Whatever the case, in chapter 19 we find Elijah sitting under a tree in the middle of the barren wilderness asking God to end his life. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep (1 Kings 19:4,5). Such was his state of despair and depth of his depression that he could see neither joy nor value in living. It DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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seems that even heroes of faith can lose the will to live. What is surprising though, is God’s response. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around and noticed bread baked over hot coals and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again (1 Kings 19:5, 6).

God's response

God did not offer a rebuke, nor did He lecture Elijah on having more faith or being more resilient. Instead, God sent an angel to deliver him a couple of hot meals and some cool water. He acknowledged the toll that the journey had on Elijah and let him get some well-deserved rest. Some of us in our well-meaning attempts to help a friend struggling

#1 Ideally spend at least 30 minutes

with depression might try to talk some sense into them or offer a motivational monologue. But the God of the universe took a completely different approach. He saw Elijah’s desperate state and met his physical needs first. Then, He acknowledged Elijah’s struggle and waited for him to be ready to take the next step. God’s response is centred on compassion rather than condemnation.

GET AS MUCH NATURAL LIGHT AS YOU CAN.

outdoors each day. Natural light, especially morning sunlight, has been shown to positively impact natural biological rhythms and brain chemistry. Many studies have observed a correlation between light and healthy brain function.4

#2 We can struggle with motivation when we are depressed EXERCISE REGULARLY.

beating the black dog

Our brain chemistry is profoundly affected by our physical environment. Food, light, sleep, music: all these things can have a dramatic effect on our mood and ability to cope. Here are three simple things you can do to balance your brain chemistry:

but getting regular exercise has been shown to reduce depression symptoms across all age groups for both men and women.5

#3 What you eat has a profound effect on mental wellbeing. EAT WELL.

Studies have shown that when we endure stress for a prolonged period the balance of our brain chemistry can be affected. 44

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@VECTORJUICE—FREEPIK

While we might be tempted to reach for the comfort food and junk food when we are feeling down, studies show that eating balanced meals are much more effective at improving our mental and emotional state. A plant-based diet may offer particular benefit.6 Whether you are personally struggling with depression or are trying to support someone who is, meeting basic physical needs is a good first step. Being aware that depression has a significant physical and chemical basis can be helpful in guiding our response and temptation to offer well-intentioned advice. And finally, as with any mental illness, compassion, or self-compassion, makes a

world of difference. If you or someone you know is struggling with severe depression it is important to seek professional help. You can call Lifeline anytime on 13 11 14 or speak to a medical practitioner for support. Rebecca Cheers is a freelance writer with a Graduate Diploma in Ministry and Theology. She previously worked as a solicitor for more than 10 years having completed a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) in 2010 and a Graduate Diploma in Psychology in 2017. She is married with three precious daughters and resides on the South Coast of NSW. 1. <psycom.net/depression/major-depressive-disorder/dsm-5-depression-criteria> 2. Pan JX, Xia JJ, Deng FL, et al. "Diagnosis of major depressive disorder based on changes in multiple plasma neurotransmitters: a targeted metabolomics study". Transl Psychiatry 8, 130 (2018). <doi. org/10.1038/s41398-018-0183-x> 3. Baldwin M Way, Shelley E Taylor, "The Serotonin Transporter Promoter Polymorphism Is Associated with Cortisol Response to Psychosocial Stress". Biological Psychiatry 67, 5, (2010) 487-492 https://doi. org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.10.021. 4. Kent ST, McClure LA, Crosson WL et al. "Effect of sunlight exposure on cognitive function among depressed and non-depressed participants: a REGARDS cross-sectional study". Environ Health 8, 34 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-069X-8-34 5. North TC, McCullagh P, Tran ZV, & Lavallee D, Williams JM, Jones MV (Eds), & Papathomas A (Collaborator). (2008). "Effect of exercise on depression". In D. Lavallee, JM, Williams MV, Jones (Eds.) & M Allen C, Spray H, Peters M, Eys G, Morgan V, Krane C Douglas, MI Jones, A Papathomas, C Scherzer, K. Goodger (Collaborators), Key studies in sport and exercise psychology (pp. 258–284). Open University Press. 6. Agarwal U, Mishra S, Xu J, Levin S, Gonzales J, Barnard ND. "A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial of a Nutrition Intervention Program in a Multiethnic Adult Population in the Corporate Setting Reduces Depression and Anxiety and Improves Quality of Life: The GEICO Study". American Journal of Health Promotion. 29, 4 (2015):245-254. doi:10.4278/ ajhp.130218-QUAN-72

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W

ELL B EING

OUT OF

DARKNESS AND INTO

The Light

My story of how God brought me from the darkest place and into His incredible light.

TALIA VALDERRAMA

BY SARAH ROE

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Trigger warning: the following story contains references to death and drug use. DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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I

wasn’t brought up in a Christian home—it was a household with no religion and not much talk of it at all. My parents separated when I was five and I lived with my mum and older brother while only seeing my dad every now and then. We grew up in Paddington, Sydney, right in the inner-city. I went to a strict all-girls’ private school which wasn’t religious, so I never learned much about God, Jesus or the Bible. Evolution was taught as a fact and since we didn’t explore many other beliefs or reasons for how humans came to exist and what we were all doing here, evolution is just what I believed. All around me, the purpose of life seemed to be to get a well-paid job, earn lots of money and live a life of luxury. I didn’t have any Christian friends, or if I did, they didn’t talk to me about anything like that. The only Christian I knew growing up was my uncle, who I hardly saw and whom I’d only heard strange stories about. I’d seen those church-going people on television and thought they were a bunch of loonies. The only experience I had was when I went to a Catholic church with a friend’s family and all I remember thinking was, How weird. I wonder what they’re doing. I wonder why they’re lining up to eat those small crackers. I enjoyed my childhood. My parents remained friends and we would all still go out to dinner together. My dad and step mum took us on

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lots of holidays and my mum took good care of us. She was a great cook and always worked hard to make ends meet.

chasing that feeling

My friends and I started drinking together and going to parties when we were 13 or 14. I had a lot of friends, but at the same time I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. When I finished school at 18, I couldn’t wait to live my own life. I left home immediately and started going to nightclubs, where I thought I had found my tribe. Yep, this is where I belong, I thought. I started taking ecstasy, cocaine, speed and ketamine. I became obsessed with dance music, DJs, party drugs and everything else. For the next five or so years, this was how I spent nearly every weekend. My boyfriend at the time was a dealer and I became a promoter for one of the clubs. Because I knew the DJs, managers, bar staff and bouncers, I barely paid for anything. I was having the time of my life and believed the meaning of life was to feel good, have fun and dance. The drugs gave me an intense feeling of love, joy and peace as I danced away, smiling. It felt so real, but now I know it was fake and fleeting—a trap and a counterfeit of the real love, joy and peace God gives us. I remember being in a dark underground club when a guy came up to me, stared at me and said,

“Excuse me . . . You don’t belong here.” I replied, “Pardon?” Again, he said, “You don’t belong here. You look so young and innocent.” But I was certain that was where I belonged. I did some stupid things over those years, all as if I had no sense of danger. One night I was put on a stretcher and into an ambulance with the sirens on. Another night I had a near-death experience from a drug I’d taken. You’d think I would have learnt a lesson, but I didn’t. Now I can look back and see how God was protecting me through it all. The wild times continued when I moved to London in my early twenties. I started seeing a guy who I thought was the absolute bee’s knees. He was a DJ and music producer who travelled the world playing at the most famous nightclubs. He used to tell me stories about how his house was haunted by a ghost. He told me he would wake up at night in the freezing cold, the lights would flash on and off and the bed would be violently shaken to the point he’d nearly get thrown off. He had a Catholic priest come and cleanse it with smoke and strange chanting prayers. He later produced some dance tracks called “Haunted House”, “Ouija board” and “Witchcraft”, so you can see where that was heading. Around this time, I became interested in tarot cards, horoscopes, books by the Dalai Lama, and shows and movies filled with spiritualism.

You'd think I would have learnt a lesson, but I didn't. Now I can look back and see how God was protecting me through it all.

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I was having the time of my life and believed the meaning of life was to feel good, have fun and dance.

the road home

The drug and alcohol scene continued and I met Ben, who became my husband and the father to my three children. We moved in together straight away and did everything the wrong way. But during a very wild and chaotic time, God somehow did His amazing thing. Ben and I had a conversation and I mentioned evolution and how crazy those apes were—our longlost cousins or something like that. He wasn’t a practicing Christian but had gone to church when he was young. He told me he believed in God. I think I laughed at him. But for the first time I thought, Oh, maybe there is a God? I was so curious that I kept asking him questions. He told me a few things 50

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he learned from the church his parents took him to when he was young. He remembered the Bible said something about the end of the world. I’d seen a few end-of-world Hollywood movies and wanted to know more. I was walking around London late one night with the urge to find out whether this God really existed or not, so I decided I’d try praying. I said my first prayer, which sounded like this: “God, hello, can You hear me? If You can and You exist, You’ll have to prove it somehow.” Over the next few months, I was handed three or four flyers and a few brochures in the street—all from different people at different times—and every single one was about God, Jesus and the Bible. At

this time, we moved back to Sydney, Australia, and as I walked out of the library, I saw another flyer on the ground that caught my eye. It had a picture of the pope, Al Gore, the Dalai Lama and Barack Obama on the front and said, “Who will make it right?” I grabbed it and read that it was a series of seminars with topics about the Bible, future events predicted in some of its books and the end of the world. I was so excited I took it home and told Ben we had to go. He was sceptical but came along. The series was in the heart of the CBD in Sydney at the Greater Union Cinemas. So before we would go out clubbing each night, we would head into the cinema to see this seminar with some American guy named David Asscherick speaking.

waking up

We were still into clubbing at the time and I called up one of my good friends as we were going to go out. He wouldn’t answer his phone and I was baffled I couldn’t reach him

because we had planned to meet. The reason he didn’t answer was because he’d been at a party the week before and died after taking an ecstasy pill. He never even made it home. I cried for five days straight. I was so sad at the idea of never seeing him again. Though the situation was horrible, for the first time it made me think, What on earth am I doing to myself? It could be me next. I can look back over this time and see that God was with me and was calling me to live a better life. From that moment I never touched a party drug again and pretty well stopped drinking too. We continued to go to the seminars and I became more convinced that what I was hearing was true. I guess it was more of a head knowledge truth at that stage, but I suddenly wanted to know everything. David, the speaker, asked us to dinner a couple of times with his friend Gary Kent and I remember thinking, Wow, these people are so nice! My head was like a sponge and we learnt so much in DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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positively different From family LIFE to physical HEALTH, sacred MUSIC to vibrant SPIRITUALITY, Faith FM programs will brighten your day and guide you on the way.

During a very wild and chaotic time, God somehow did His amazing thing.

a short space of time. We did Bible studies and I learnt about Jesus for the first time. It was incredible! Ben and I got married and were baptised a few years later. I was so excited to tell my mum I’d been attending church and couldn’t wait to share everything with her but the look on her face was one of complete shock and horror and expressed, “Sarah, oh my goodness, 52

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you have lost the plot.” Rumour went around that we’d joined a cult and because I stopped partying, many of my friends in the clubbing scene disappeared. It’s been 12 years since I decided to follow Jesus and many things have changed . . . and praise the Lord, I’ve just started doing Bible studies with my mum! I want to thank God for helping me find a new purpose in life and for helping me let go of the harmful ways in which I was living. As for that guy in the club, he was right. I didn’t belong there. This is where I belong, in God’s family with all the amazing people I’ve met along the way. Sarah Roe lives with her three children on the Gold Coast where they enjoy going to the beach and rock climbing.

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CU

LT U R E

CHRISTIANITY, THE True MYTH Myths and legends are often disregarded as only good for entertainment. But what if they had something more profound to say about human existence? BY MARK HADLEY

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W

hen I was in primary school, I fell in love with the number 398.2. It was the Dewey Decimal figure that identified books devoted to myths and legends. To the uninitiated, the Dewey Decimal System is a series of numbers that libraries use to organise their vast collections of books by topic. I should add for the sake of readers born in the 21st century that libraries are places where members of the public can go to read and even borrow entertaining and informative books.

a mythical childhood

I fell in love with the shelves where the books labelled 398.2 resided because they contained row-upon-row of stories that were clearly fantastical, yet somehow still felt real. It was there that I first found the Greek legend of Icarus, a boy with wings of feather and wax who flew too close to the sun. It taught me that exalting yourself was a sure way of falling to your doom. There was also the Norse legend of Thor and his bottomless drinking horn that reminded me we are never as great as we think we are. There were the Middle English tales that recounted the amazing luck of widows’ sons that assured me there was a hand on the scale in favour of society’s least valued. And bracketing all of these were Grimms’ Fairy Tales, The Illiad, The Arabian Nights, Aesop’s Fables and too many more to mention here. What they all had in 56

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common, though, was that no-one believed they were true, yet whole societies had been built on the truth they contained.

how a myth becomes truth

Myths are an essential part of any society. They are the stories we tell that teach us the lessons we think every generation should learn. Fantasy author and academic JRR Tolkien believed a myth was

No-one believed they were true, yet whole societies had been built on the truth they contained best defined as a story that conveys “fundamental things”—one that tries to tell us about the deeper structure of life. According to biographer Alistair McGrath, “The best myths, [Tolkien] argues, are not deliberately constructed falsehoods, but are rather tales woven by people to capture the echoes of deeper truths. They are like splintered fragments of the true light.” Myths can be as quaint as Beatrix

Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, or as complex as Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. In the present day, though, most people are more likely to encounter them on the small screen than between the boards of any book. Two high-definition adventures that certainly fit the bill are The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon.

mythic proportions

Amazon Prime’s The Rings of Power is a prequel to Tolkien’s hugely successful trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. In the film version of that blockbuster, we met Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), an ancient queen among elves. In The Rings of Power, we meet a younger version of the same character played by Morfydd Clark. Her tale is set thousands of years before Frodo ever began his quest. Her world has seen the defeat of the ultimate dark lord, Morgoth, but Galadriel, a saviour figure, persists in telling everyone that evil is not yet vanquished. Despite the doubts of her superiors, she continues to hunt for Sauron, the designer of the dangerous rings from which the series takes its name. She is involved in a titanic struggle between good and evil that is as old as myth itself. And, like myth, we already know the outcome. There may be many sad things to bear, but light will triumph over darkness. Mythic truths are also at work in Binge’s House of the Dragon. Milly Alcock stars as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen in another prequel, this time a spin-off of the record-breaking DECEMBER 2022 • SIGNS OF THE TIMES.ORG.AU

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Game of Thrones franchise. Rhaenyra is caught up in a struggle for the Iron Throne of Westeros, 172 years before the original storyline. As we have come to expect from the Game of Thrones saga, this new series is just as morally grey, with the princess being corrupted by her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith), even as he purports to educate her in the games of the powerful. But even this is a myth that communicates the stark reality of life—that the innocent are regularly beaten down by the privileged. What The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon have in common is not just strong female leads or the ring of steel on steel, but the ring of truth. Their storylines harmonise with a set of mythic morals we instinctively recognise. This is not the first time we have heard their truths, nor will it be the last. Recognising the repetition should draw us to the conclusion that there is, in all likelihood, a set of fundamental truths providing the foundation for their lessons. It was this conclusion that led to the Christian conversion of one of the modern age’s most recognised myth-writers.

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myth and allegory

CS Lewis was the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, the tales of a fantastic world ruled over by the lion-king, Aslan. But before he put pen to paper, he was an Oxford don. Lewis believed there was a God but wondered if he was truly knowable. His answer came the night he took an after-dinner walk with his Christian friends Hugo Dyson and JRR Tolkien. For Lewis, all myths–the Bible included–were made-up tales, even if they were “lies breathed through silver”. But Tolkien contended that being a myth wasn’t a problem. There was as much truth to be found in the Bible’s stories as any other piece of folklore. And more so, the Bible was the foundational myth to which all other myths pointed. That night, Lewis wrote to his friend Arthur Greeves: “The story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.”

the truest myth

398.2 is where many people would like to file Christianity. It is a collec-

tion of myths to be placed alongside other ancient religions. Native American mythologies contain creation stories. The Epic of Gilgamesh tells the story of a worldwide flood. The Egyptian tale of Osiris speaks of an eternal king who dies and is resurrected for the sake of the world. Yet the similarity of these stories should not lead us to doubt the Bible is true. Rather, their confluence strengthens its claims. It is exactly what we would expect if a Creator God was forever communicating His truth to a world He loves. In fact, the apostle Paul tells the Athenians that leaving a witness to Himself in myths is exactly what God has done: “As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” That is not to say all paths lead to God. Too much hangs in the balance for God to be vague. So, as Lewis realised, God writes His ultimate myth into history. Jesus arrives in first century Palestine and He makes the definitive truth statement: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” In The Rings of Power, Galadriel is

challenged to explain why she came to be where she is. She responds with words that might have just as easily come from Jesus’ mouth: “Because rather than rest in glory, I chose to seek out the very enemy responsible for your suffering.” This reflection would have come as no surprise to Tolkien. As he shared with Lewis, “We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God.” In short, the myths of this world, both ancient and modern, reveal truths we appreciate because they reflect the truths on which our world is founded. Evil has plunged our world into chaos. Yet there is a God whose hand is on the scale. Light will prevail over darkness. And He has told us so through His Saviour Son. With truths so bold, is it any wonder they constantly leak into our world? Mark Hadley is a media and cultural critic who lives with his family in Sydney, NSW. Please note that discussion of a media product in Signs of the Times does not imply an endorsement or recommendation.

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CHRISTMAS Ki n d n e ss IN LOGAN

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The ADRA Logan Community Centre operates throughout the year to be a beacon of hope in the community. It provides up to 80 food parcels a day and operates two op shops—one for furniture and another for clothing and bric-a-brac. There is a community garden out the back of the Springwood Seventh-day Adventist Church, providing fresh produce. A local drug and alcohol counselling group meets once a week and the centre offers two types of traineeships: a hospitality group in the pop-up café and a conservation team that works in the council gardens. Along with the trainees, there are up to 20 volunteers at the centre each day. “People come in and they’re upset, they’re angry, they’re disturbed, they’re frustrated or they’re desperate and they leave with a smile on their face, having someone care for them,” Simon says. “I seem to get more and more passionate [about the work of ADRA] as I get older.” Within Australia, ADRA operates more than 100 community projects, each working towards the same goal to serve humanity so all may live as God intended. As well as meeting people’s physical needs, for so many, the real support often comes from the sense of community and belonging they experience when they walk through the door. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency supports a wide variety of initiatives worldwide. Ashley Stanton lives in Sydney, where she works in its communication and marketing team. Signs of the Times is a proud partner of ADRA. To find your nearest ADRA project, visit <adra.org.au/get-help>.

IMAGES SUPPLIED BY ADRA

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ast year we served 1251 people Christmas breakfast and provided 150 food parcels,” says Simon Lewis, ADRA Logan Community Centre manager. “It is the biggest Christmas Day activity in Queensland where all four branches of the emergency services are represented.” Since 2016, the ADRA Logan Community Centre has been providing an annual Christmas day community breakfast. The event is supported by local businesses and organisations, councillors and MPs, and has representatives from the fire brigade, police, ambulance and SES services. As well as serving breakfast to everyone, the festivities include Santa arriving on a fire truck, children receiving presents, face painting, live music and food parcels given to those struggling. “Christmas Day is often tough for a lot of people,” says Lewis. “We’re helping on two ends of the spectrum. People who want to come out and volunteer to combat loneliness and those in need who can come out and have a family event with festive cheer.” With the cost-of-living crisis pushing more people into homelessness, this year the ADRA Logan Community Centre will distribute homeless parcels and food parcels. “This year, it’s going to be the same deal,” Lewis says. “People can drop off gifts, or if they want something to do on Christmas morning they can volunteer, help cook, serve, do face painting, help with cleaning.”

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FUN

CROSSWORD

CROSSWORD CLUES

How closely have you been reading? Each keyword in this puzzle is also contained within this edition of Signs of the Times. Happy digging!

DOWN 1 Roman emperor at the time of St Nick 2 Doesn't belong on pizza 3 Sauron in man form 5 Called the '90s "the good decade" 9 Eating until you're 80 per cent full 11 A Parisian cathedral 12 The gift God gave Elijah in his hour of need 14 Jesus' home town 15 Always room for this at Christmas time

Hint: 15 Down

JORDANE MATHIEU—UNSPLASH

ACROSS 4 Where St Nick hailed from 6 Heir to the Iron Throne 7 Can reduce your risk of developing chronic disease 8 Award-winning Australian beer brand 10 American president who suffered from depression 13 One of Caesar Augustus' titles

EDUCATION.COM

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