When it comes to money matters the times are mad, the times are bad!
Mad, because seemingly solid financial institutions have collapsed like a row of dominoes; bad, because this has not happened by chance. This has happened through those who ought to have known better...those who have speculated recklessly with other people's money, their life-long savings, their security. Highly paid people at that! I call this white-collared wickedness on a grand scale.
You see, most of us ordinary folk, being short of cash, have to be careful how we spend the little we have. Without being too formal about it we find that we have to make some kind of budget to ensure that we don't go in for extravagant shopping sprees or excessive partying. It would be mad to do this if it left us with unpaid bills!
This brings me round to this friend of mine who presented me with more than peanuts, insisting that this was "mad money." It was not to be spent on something useful, like a pair of shoes or some clothing. I was to indulge myself on something utterly enjoyable -nice but not necessary.
"Here's some mad money. Spend it madly." Was she mad in making this suggestion? For once serious me was to be frivolous -not to be practical, not to be calculating. I was to act out of character. She was reminding me how important it is to relax and not feel guilty about it.
I mention this now, when we are well into the season of Advent. We Christians have moved into top gear as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus ...Christmas. Not everybody sees Christmas in this way.
From the middle of November it has seemed that the world has gone crazy. Money is being spent madly. Stores are festooned with decorations -streamers, balloons and much else. People are being encouraged to buy, buy, buy...to spend like mad. Christmas trees are covered with glass baubles and twinkling lights. Later on, our homes will be garnished with such trivia. All these cost precious money. No need to mention how much is spent on special food and drink.
Not surprisingly, some, including preachers, suggest that all this, along with the seemingly mindless tunes about red-nosed reindeer and jingling bells, are replacing the true meaning of Christmas...a massive distraction from what is surely the central message of Christmas.
As though with fist-shaking defiance at these worldly trends Christians have come up with such slogans as, "Jesus is the reason for the season," and "put Christ back into Christmas." To them it appears that what now remains is a brightly wrapped package without content. They fear that Christ is being lost in all this glitter. For them Christmas is no time for foolishness.
And yet....? I can't put out of my mind my friend's 'hard earned money' becoming my 'mad money.' She insisted that I make a statement to myself that life is more than calculating and penny-pinching. We must take into ourselves, and not keep bottled up within ourselves, that God loves us insanely. And, dare I say it, 'Madly?' He sent his Son to be born of a woman, Mary. He wanted him to become part of the oft-times murky fellowship that is the human family.
To be loved so much by the One who is greater than the whole of creation is cause for joy that demands to be celebrated. The birth of Jesus is at one and the same time the most momentous and most joyful event in the history of mankind. And what is more Jesus took upon himself the 'madness of the cross.' He died for us...he rose for us.
If I sound hysterical, I can't help it. Our serious, faith-approach to Christmas does not have to exclude a certain light-heartedness. Why shouldn't our enthusiasm that the Son of God became flesh and dwelt amongst us be wrapped up in cheerful sights and sounds, not forgetting delicious tastes and fervent embraces. That's the way we do things.
Great events call for something 'out of this world,' out of Ordinary Time with its ordinary ways. Such is my enthusiasm for what took place in Bethlehem.
I am grateful to my benefactor for convincing me of the value of 'mad money,' and much else that is mad in my life. I think I speak for Isidore when I say that if we weren't slightly mad we could never have written this kind of blog! (I.C. says, 'Amen' to this!)
Next week Peter will reflect on meeting God through A Family Tableau.