Saturday, November 19, 2011

Slow Down, Be Content with What You Have, and Enjoy the Holiday Season

Angie here: Sharing an article I found particularly appropriate as we go into the holiday season. Please enjoy and let me know if you agree or disagree.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Slow Down, Be Content with What You Have, and Enjoy the Holiday Season
Watch out for a jolly little Englishman wishing you Happy Holidays

By Michael Ireland

Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

MINNEAPOLIS, MN / BAGHDAD, IRAQ (ANS) -- In a recent article for ASSIST News, my colleague Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries, called "Why are 'Christians' (and others) so angry, and sometimes downright hateful?" , talks about anger and hatefulness -- especially among believers.

I've been thinking about that, and I have to say it prompted me to think and write about why I really dislike going shopping at this time of year. I would like to consider the blindness and self-centeredness that affects holiday shoppers.

I love the real meaning of Christmas -- the Gift of God in the Birth of our Savior Jesus Christ -- but I dislike all the modern trappings that come with our Westernized commercialization of the holiday -- and all the pushing and shoving, and jockeying for position, that goes on at this time of year.

Canon Andrew White, the popular 'Vicar of Baghdad,' writes in "Christmas in Baghdad" on his Facebook page (which he gave ASSIST News permission to use): "The Western world is already preparing for the great day on 25th December. Presents are brought copious amounts of food will be brought in preparation for the party to begin. Decorations are prepared in the home and the towns for the great day to begin.

"For us, though, here in Baghdad things could not be more different. Our Christian people know that the Big Eid (Celebration) is coming. They know that we are about to celebrate the coming of the Christ Child. There is no razzmatazz; the only decoration will be the Christmas tree in the church. Presents -- well, there simply are not any, apart from what we get for the children and the boxes given by Samaritan's Purse. For the children we will work at bringing them some joy and fun. We will dress somebody up as Papa Noel (Santa Clause) as we give children their presents. The reality is that this celebration here is totally different from the festivity elsewhere in the world.

"Here, despite the media no longer showing our existence, we still live in violence and terrorism. I still move around my parish surrounded by hoards of soldiers and police -- yet we are still happy and for us there is total joy. Christmas for us is first and foremost a time of spiritual celebration. We may have nothing, we may live in total turmoil, but we celebrate this Christmas the coming of the Christ Child. For us Christmas is simply a celebration of God coming to be amongst us in Jesus the Christ Child.

"I never forget the day several Christmas's ago when I told the children I was going to tell them about Bethlehem where I used to live and where Jesus first came. A little boy Yousif put his hand up and said "Jesus did not first go to Bethlehem he came first to Iraq". When I asked why, he asked if I remembered that when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego where in the flames there was another person with them and it was Jesus and I was told that happened just down the road in Babylon. So I was seriously put in my place and each time I sing "oh little town of Bethlehem" I think to myself Jesus was indeed here first and he still is here.

"So for us Christmas is simply about our Lord amongst us. We celebrate the fact of his Incarnation. There is no food or parties, but real celebration of faith. Christmas is simply a time of spiritual renewal -- a time when we remember that the Lord is indeed here and His Spirit is amongst us. These words from the Eucharist we say at the beginning of every service in Arabic. 'Allah hu ma ana, Baruch ha qudos ma ana athan.' For us Christmas is simply a celebration of the fact that: "The lord is here and His Spirit is with us."

Three years ago this week, a Walmart employee was trampled to death by frantic customers rushing to be the first to get the best deals on Black Friday -- the infamous "shoppers delight" -- the day after Thanksgiving when all the world loses it mind for a 'bargain' at your favorite retail outlet.

As the New York Times reported: The throng of Walmart shoppers had been building all night, filling sidewalks and stretching across a vast parking lot at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, N.Y. At 3:30 a.m., the Nassau County police had to be called in for crowd control, and an officer with a bullhorn pleaded for order.

Tension grew as the 5 a.m. opening neared. Someone taped up a crude poster: 'Blitz Line Starts Here.'

By 4:55, with no police officers in sight, the crowd of more than 2,000 had become a rabble, and could be held back no longer. Fists banged and shoulders pressed on the sliding-glass double doors, which bowed in with the weight of the assault. Six to 10 workers inside tried to push back, but it was hopeless.

Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over, witnesses said.

Some workers who saw what was happening fought their way through the surge to get to Mr. Damour, but he had been fatally injured, the police said. Emergency workers tried to revive Mr. Damour, a temporary worker hired for the holiday season, at the scene, but he was pronounced dead an hour later at Franklin Hospital Medical Center in Valley Stream.

Four other people, including a 28-year-old woman who was described as eight months pregnant, were treated at the hospital for minor injuries. (See:

I am prompted to ask what drives such madness that ended in the death of one man and injuries to others?

My Bible gives an answer -- "the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life," (1 John 2:16 NIV).

Our society promotes dissatisfaction with who we are and what we have (or, more accurately, what we DON'T have). There is a constant push and pressure from advertising media to be different from the person God made us to be, and to want more to satisfy our insatiable desires to be more than God planned. We are driven to be better than the next man (or woman), to want the biggest, the best, the latest, the newest. On and on it goes, ad infinitum.

This constant push to want more distorts the imageo deo -- the image of God -- within us. It trashes God's design for our health, happiness and wellbeing. More important, it destroys the design of God for lives of contentment.

The Apostle Paul wrote that he had learned to be content in whatever state or condition he found himself in. He had plenty of opportunity to exercise that attitude of heart and mind, having been beaten, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, among other things.

And my Bible advises me to "Be content with such as you have. Just as long as you have food and raiment (clothing), be satisfied with that." More important, my Bible also says, "Better is a little with the Lord, than much and great trouble therewith."

You see, that is good, sound, common sense advice from our Maker, Creator, and Sustainer.

My biggest "beef" is that holiday shoppers wander around in a glassy-eyed daze, totally oblivious to others around them while pushing their carts loaded with things they don't really need and cannot really afford.

Many times I have had to stop in mid-track -- right there in the middle of Aisle Four -- and by deliberately slowing down the frenzy in front of me, to ensure that my disabled wife doesn't end up in the Emergency Room, or in the Mortuary. She may be as strong as an ox in many ways, but in others she has certain physical frailties due to heart and lung (breathing) problems -- the result of a congenital heart deformity that led to a heart attack and two cardiac arrests on Thanksgiving, 2004. She was on life support and in a medically-induced coma and not expected to live. Praise to the Living God, He saved her and brought her back to me!

So, it really annoys me when people push and shove their way in front of my wife and I in the rush to make sure they don't miss out on that super-duper bargain they've just gotta have or they won't ever be happy again.

I know we cannot expect non- or un-believers to have the same selfless values we as Christians hold dear but, I am afraid, Christians are also guilty of this behavior. I know; I've seen you in the store that I too shop in.

I wasn't brought up that way. My mother taught me from an early age to help and respect the elderly and disabled, mothers with young kids and loads of grocery bags, to open doors for people of the opposite gender, and to give up my seat on the bus to any one of the above. To me, this just seemed like common courtesy.
Now it seems courtesies like this are not so common as we seek to indulge ourselves silly.
But, instead of being angry about this, I am going to go on my merry way, smiling cheerfully -- and making pleasant conversation with everyone with whom I can make eye-contact this Thanksgiving.

Consider it my personal crusade to bring some humanity back into the gift-giving season. And this will be my gift to the rest of humanity this holiday.

So, be warned: if you shop in the same stores as my wife and I this holiday season, you may be accosted by a short, fat, slightly-balding Englishman who just wants to make sure you have a pleasant shopping experience -- and be touched by the milk of human kindness -- the best gift any one human being can give another.

** Michael Ireland is the Senior International Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can make a donation online under 'Donate' tab, then look for 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' under 'Donation Category' to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' Michael is a member in g ood standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Newswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior International Reporter
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