It was only a year ago that another date on the calendar has entered my vocabulary. Something like Black Friday? Or is it now called Bleak Friday according to the Media? An American terminology, it's supposed be be the day after Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November. It is a public holiday very much parallel to Christmas Day, when many families settle around a table laden with roast turkey and its trimmings, the only difference being the lack of gaudy decorations wrapped around a fir tree, and no exchange of presents. Many American businesses feel that it's uneconomical to trade on the just one day following, so a four-day weekend is enjoyed, with the Friday evolving, so I believe, to be the first day of the Christmas shopping season - a boom for retailers.
So we have a saying here in the UK - Whenever America has a fit of coughing, Britain harrumphs its own throat soon afterwards. So with Black Friday, it has become established here too, along with the Americanisation of our towns and cities, the invasion of McDonald's into the once sleepy UK market of Wimpey's, the burger invasion long preceded by the introduction of para-orthodox faiths and cults (Watchtower Society, Mormonism, Christian Science, etc.) along with para-medical practices such as Chiropractic treatments. But without the public holiday, as the British version of Black Friday, although falling on the fourth Friday of November, remains within a full working week. Then I recall a telling off I received from an English church-goer for using the word diaper instead of nappy in a conversation about our newborn daughter. Perhaps he should be grateful that our Queen's English has so far has not (yet) been invaded by words such as Crosswalk instead of Zebra Crossing, along with Rotary Interchange instead of Roundabout, the rear Trunk for a car instead of the Boot, Smokestack for Chimney, Cookies for Biscuits, and Comfort Station for Public Convenience. However, the American term Airplane looks to have crept into the Queen's English as if through the back door, and remained unnoticed except by the sternest of newspaper journalism, who insist on the English word Aeroplane.
Although, in my point of view, the start of Christmas preparations, including the installation of Christmas lights, should be within the month of December itself without spilling into November, I still find something nostalgic about Christmas and everything that goes with it. That is the one day of the year bringing excitement of new toys to us as children, and one of the occasions of the year free from daily hassle of routine and potential disagreements between adults, when relatives arrive to spend the season together, and that unique cigar smoke filling the air following the main dinner of roast turkey and potatoes, Brussel sprouts (which I was very fond of, believe it or not!) - along with the Christmas pudding being served literally on fire, lit table candles, crackers with its useless trinkets and dreadful jokes, walnuts and hazelnuts with just one nutcracker among a table of six, plenty of Torrone (an Italian nougat), Motta Panetone, and a seemingly unlimited supply of chocolate. A great way to celebrate the Lord's birthday.
There is nothing unbiblical about a national celebration to welcome the birth of our Saviour. The exchange of presents, I believe should not be confined to Christmas and birthdays, but at any time of the year, which help revive flagging relationships and further strengthen already healthy unions. But it was this time last year that I saw, via newspaper and television, something which I thought would never occur here in the UK, and would have caused previous generations to sink their heads in sheer national embarrassment. That is, the frenzy to buy goods at a reduced bargain price. Across the nation, stores selling electrical goods in particular, attracted large crowds, many after the same item. The result were fist-fights - the fruit of the me-first attitude instead of considering the welfare of others, as the Bible teaches.
The greatest bone of contention among merchandise of reduced cost seemed to be new television sets. Wow! All of a sudden, everyone wants a new TV set! What was happening? Isn't it true then, that just about every household here in Britain owns at least one TV set? And with my former occupation, I was fully aware of a TV in each bedroom in addition to the one in the main living room. Why the cry for new TV's all of a sudden? And what is it about buying one at a reduced price, when no consideration for it would have been given at any other time? (For the record, this blog was composed the day after Black Friday 2015, when by a massive contrast, most shoppers stayed away from the discount stores, and instead, ordered their purchases online, resulting in the dubbing of the day - "Bleak Friday".)
It seems to me that possession of physical wealth does not lead to contentment, but the cry for more, more, more. And with our modern culture, if the next door neighbour has something new, than the other must have it too. A good example of this, during my working days, was the re-paving of the front driveway. When one household had theirs done, it wasn't long before the neighbours also had theirs done too. As with computers, play stations, even type of car parked outside, if he has one, I must have one too. With the latter, I tend to think that some who own posh cars parks them outside to show them off to their neighbours, and announcing to the world of their achievements. Then again, others park their vehicles well away from view in fear of vandalism and theft. It is rather extraordinary, come to think of it, that only a few generations back, a typical Christmas present, for instance, was a pair of socks, or even a treat like a bar of chocolate (or equivalent) which was gratefully received by the recipient. Hmm. I dare any parent to buy their pre-teenage son just a pair of socks for this Christmas, and see how grateful he would be for the present!
I suppose there is something about owning and displaying possessions. Does it symbolise status? Or financial success? Or success in one's career? Or do they cover the feeling of inadequacy? This "I must have that or else I'll be seen as a pariah of society" - could this be the reason behind the want for possessions? To keep up with the Jone's? Then to add that the advertising world is designed to make you feel odd if you don't have this particular product.
Jesus had quite a bit to say about owning possessions. One example is found in Luke 12:15 - Watch out! A man does not consist on the abundance of his possessions. That was his answer he gave to someone who asked him to arbitrate between himself and his brother over an inheritance. He then tells a parable about a rich man whose harvest was bountiful, and decided to enlarge his barns before retirement. But that very evening God said, You fool! Tonight your soul will be required of you. Then who will get what you own? To be called a fool by God, I think, is the worst scenario that could occur to a person. This is an interesting case. This was in times when a wealthy man was thought by others to be righteous before God, as it was believed through Moses that wealth was a reward from God for his obedience to his commandments, such as found in Leviticus 26:3-13, Deuteronomy 11:13-15, and 28:1-14. Each of these verses assures the reader that abundant crops is the reward for righteousness, and therefore regarded as wise and respectable among his fellow Israelites.
As a sign of being truly righteous before God, the rich man in the Lord's parable, instead of planning to enlarge his barns, he should have considered the poor living around him, and give away his stock, trusting in God for his daily needs. Imagine the joyful fellowship he would have received from his neighbours, the growing of a good reputation in society. These, I believe, are the true treasures of heaven, and it's eternal. Maybe he was afraid of thieves, a fear surely everyone of us feel from time to time. But even if his abundance did fall into the hands of thieves, this would still have been a lot better than being called a fool by God. In fact, Jesus zeroes into this matter, found in Matthew 6:19-21. Here he advises us not to lay for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupts and thieves break through and steal, but to lay for yourselves treasure in Heaven, where moth and rust does not corrupt, neither do thieves break through and steal.
Faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour is the only solution to the problem we have, along consideration for others. I think that true riches is the agape love that flows in us and through us. And that can only come about through the Holy Spirit in us. And this is also a promise from the Lord Jesus himself. The Holy Spirit is there for the asking, not merely to believers, but for everyone:-
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! Luke 11:13.
There seems to be no conditions there. There is no "First you must believe in me, then you can ask to be given the Holy Spirit." Instead, the Holy Spirit is being offered to people who are evil, with unregenerate hearts. As I see it, this is parallel to "The Sinner's Prayer" of asking Jesus into the heart. As God exist as a Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet there are no three Almighty Gods but just one Almighty God, then providing that the attitude of the heart is right - knowing the need for God in one's life - he can call upon any of the Trinity, and God will hear his request.
Serving God and loving others is a direct opposite of grabbing wealth and fighting with others to get it. To serve only self brings discord with others, amounting to fisticuffs, as already demonstrated in the stores at last years Black Friday. Although there may be a short term feeling of personal satisfaction by serving himself, this positive feeling usually does not endure, and longer term misery is often the end result. Indeed, King Solomon has noticed, and has recorded in Proverbs 14:20 and 19:4, that the self-serving rich has many friends, while the poor has few if any friends. Actually, the word should be in inverted commas - "friends" - as all they are of interest is their hope of gaining something. It is false friendship, and I believe that the rich man himself is also aware of this.
After all, we are here to revel in God's love, and to have this love shine out to others. This is why we are here, and not to reach out to grapple for what we want, on the expense of fighting and creating enemies. In my mind, the difference between loving someone and putting his interest above oneself is as far different from taking something in expense of another's welfare as Heaven is from Hell.
God is willing to give us everything to enjoy. In him, there is no necessity to strive, against the will of others, to grab what's there. For me anyway, God himself is my desire. How much I want him, more and more. And believe me, no one will be hurt by this.