Achieving peace on earth appears to be a rather daunting task given the climate of terror linked to recent events in various parts of the world but this Christmas season may provide a base for the achievement of some personal peace.
Despite increasing numbers of people being under pressure to work over the holiday season as retail shopping hours are gradually extended and those serving the leisure industry find that demands for their time are increasing, a majority of Australians will have the opportunity to lighten their employment burdens and relax.
The season offers the chance to spend what those who are expert in observing social behaviour describe as “quality time” with family members and friends in the casual environment delivered by the warm days of summer with their longer hours of daylight.
This is a picture which is given reduced prominence in the lead-up to Christmas, when much media attention seems to be driven by the demands of big business reminding us of the need to be spending money rather providing time and care for those around us.
A newspaper story two weeks ago estimated that Australian shoppers were set to spend $35 billion over the final month leading up to Christmas and would be further opening their purse strings in sales that will follow the big day.
Almost as a lure to ensure that the projections would be met, the same paper and its opposition provided plenty of advertisements to prompt the spending.
Reports around the same time revealed that at least a quarter of our population were seriously concerned about meeting the monetary demands that they believed were associated with the season.
Roy Morgan Research undertook the spending survey for the Salvation Army, which has expressed concerns common to the St Vincent de Paul Society that Christmas can create significant demands on their services from people struggling to raise families on tight budgets, especially if they are among 2.5 million people considered to be living below the poverty line.
Obviously Christmas is to be celebrated as an international event but its timing brings additional pressure to people in the southern hemisphere which is not shared in the same way as the burden may affect those in the north.
Meeting the demands associated with long summer holidays for our children, perhaps also taking them to a holiday destination, and then having to meet the requirements of sending them back to school at about the same time as we are facing the credit card bills which mounted during this period provokes the concerns of many people. In the northern hemisphere, the main holiday season is mid-year, with academic studies beginning in September – well away from Christmas.
No one wants to risk being something of an island and holding back in the face of pressures that are felt regarding seasonal spending and resisting such temptations is always difficult because of the messages carried through advertisements which also seek to tempt the taste buds towards the enjoyment of rather lavish seasonal meals.
Finding personal peace and attempting to share it with others requires some reflection on the meaning of what will be celebrated again next Friday and it’s something which is rarely afforded much media attention because it doesn’t generate the dollar values that can flow from driving the push to spend.
What a contrast Christmas now provides against the extremely humble circumstances which surrounded the birth which we commemorate.
Yes – it was obviously an important birth given that he was the Son of God, but its location in a stable at Bethlehem while, at least according to the hymn “shepherds watched their flocks by night”, is surely at a totally opposite extreme to the way that the event is celebrated in reasonably comfortable societies like ours.
There is nothing wrong with such celebrations, as long as those who provide them are capable of continuing to meet the demands imposed by serving the needs of their families because achieving inner peace becomes strained when financial burdens are increased. If enough individuals are able to find that peace, it helps bring it to the world.
May you enjoy your own peace this Christmas.