How the colour of money taints Christian festivals
Some people have been complaining about the way in which many stores have been trying to cash in on Christmas, even before Halloween is over. You and I will hear even more about Halloween on this very day, but the build-up has been taking place for weeks now.
At one level it can be seen as harmless fun, but it is becoming increasingly dark and ghoulish each year, with more and more skeletons, black witches, demons and far too many fireworks.
It seems as if those interested in making money have been working even harder to generate an interest in Halloween - hence the proliferation of images, special offers and meals of all kinds to celebrate the occasion.
Few people may realise that the origin of Halloween is deeply rooted in Christianity.
It is literally Hallow-eve, the eve of All Saints' Day when the Catholic Church and many Protestant Churches honour all the known saints and the saints unknown.
That day is followed on November 2 by All Souls' Day which commemorates the faithful departed, and particularly - though not exclusively - members of one's own family.
It is also significant that the great commercial extravaganza which we know as Christmas has its roots in the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus, even though many of our local councils have cynically airbrushed the Christ out of Christmas. However, when there is money to be made by the business world, any excuse will do and Christmas is the father and mother of all good excuses.
This year the pre-Christmas build-up has started even earlier than before, so by the time we reach December 24 many people will have had their fill of carols, special Christmas events and pop music which deadens the whole spirit of what should be such a special season.
However, while criticising the commercial world, we might also take a look at ourselves. Already the restaurants are filling up with Christmas bookings and many of us are juggling with dairies and trying to fit in every engagement.
This in itself is not to be condemned. The social side of Christmas is a golden opportunity to meet old friends and perhaps make new acquaintances.
It is also a time to keep in touch through Christmas cards and letters with people with whom we might otherwise lose contact.
This gains greater importance as time goes on and there is often sadness written between the lines of cards and letters in memory of those who are no longer with us.
However, Christmas is essentially a time of joy and of strengthening the bonds of family and friendship.
It is just a pity that we no longer allow this special season to remain special in its own right and in its own time. Sadly, we tend to bury the beauty of Christmas under a heap of partying and commercialism.
However, there is perhaps a way of having the best of both worlds. Some people find great joy in the glorious music of the Christmas season, as well as listening carefully to the core Bible message in the Festival of Lessons and Carols.
The great challenge for all of us is to try to keep in our inner selves the joy and message of Christmas and refusing to be buffeted and overcome by the ways of the world.
This is not easy but life would be much poorer without Christmas so let us try harder this year to give it the respect and attention it deserves, while having fun as well.