In the frenzy, remember the reason for the season
5:00AM Thursday December 20, 2007
By Garth George
I have written often at this time of the year of the reason for the season - the birth of Jesus Christ, Son of Man and Son of God - whose arrival among mankind was the beginning of the greatest story ever told.
This year I have read on this page with amusement and a measure of perplexity the ramblings of that troublesome priest Glynn Cardy, and go along with Hamilton vicar Michael Hewat that Mr Cardy is not to be taken seriously.
The Cardys of this world invariably poke their heads above the parapet at this time of the year (and again at Easter) to reveal how their Christian beliefs have been derailed somewhere along the line.
To compensate for their loss of faith such people all seem to have embraced a philosophy of extreme liberal political correctness that verges on dottiness.
I am reminded of the words of St Paul in his letter to the Romans: "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools ... "
I have wandered around downtown Rotorua and watched the materialistic madness of the so-called festive season take hold once again, seeing thousands of people spend money they don't have on things they don't need to give to people they often don't even like.
I have noted the ravenous retail trade continue to offer big and bigger discounts and other inducements right up to this week, to the extent that I wonder if anyone ever pays full price for anything any more.
I remember the days of much less intense competition when the prices of everything went up in early December and a "pre-Christmas sale" would have been greeted with astonishment.
These days the seasonal price hike is confined to supermarkets.
As I contemplate the materialistic mania I see all about me I wonder what the man after whom this season is named thinks about it as he looks down on the world from the right hand of God.
I'm sure, for a start, that there will be no condemnation in his mind of what's going on. He referred to us as sheep, so he knows full well our propensity to follow the crowd unthinkingly.
He won't care a jot that a few pagan personalities and practices have been joined to the celebration of his birth.
He will certainly rejoice at the delight of the children as they encounter once again the big, jovial fellow in the red suit and anticipate his arrival on Christmas eve.
He will be sad for those kids whose illusions about Santa Claus have been dashed by misguided adults, for it is a delightful and harmless thing.
Jesus loved children and children loved him. Everywhere he went they flocked around him and he treated them gently, kindly and with boundless love.
As St Mark tells us in his gospel: "People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.
"He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these' ... And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them."
Jesus will not begrudge us the physical, mental and emotional excesses that come at this time of the year, for he, too, enjoyed a good party.
He might wish, perhaps, that some of us didn't spend so much, eat so much and drink so much, but he'll understand because he knows just how weak and wilful we are.
But he will not condemn for he knows that it is an axiom that we reap what we sow and that our excesses will be paid for one way or another, be it crushing debt, indigestion or a crashing hangover.
He will be sad, though, that for some Christmas will bring family squabbles, violence and abuse; that some families will spend their days in poverty; that too many will take ill or will die from accidents of one sort or another.
He will be sad, too, that so many will not give him a thought, although the season bears his name. But not surprised. He said: "For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
My Christmas prayer is that sometime in the week to come a few more Kiwis will find that little gate.
What do you think?