Ethics & Morality

Black Friday demonstrates that greed is now the god of Christmas


There’s that classic moment in Monty Python’s Life of Brian when the People’s Front of Judea, during their meeting to discuss the overthrow of the accursed Romans, end up getting into a heated discussion: “What have the Romans done for us?” And the answer is, of course, quite a lot (aqueducts, sanitation, roads, and so on). But as the list increases, so their leader, Reg, gets increasingly wound up by the distraction from his overriding grudge.

I was feeling a bit like Reg yesterday, watching the hordes losing sanity and decency all for the sake of a 30-per-cent-off bargain. America probably has given us a lot of good things that improve our lives, but Black Friday certainly isn’t one of them. I’m really not feeling a lot of love right now toward those who gave us this four-year-old import from across the pond. Sure, we all like to save money, but seeing people fighting and getting abusive over a TV in a supermarket is almost sickening in its depravity.

Black Friday now marks the official start of the commercialised version of Christmas. I’m trying really hard not to let it ruin my love of this time of year, but I feel like I’m in the midst of a battle that has already been lost. We’ve made our way through the preliminary overture of Halloween, which has surely become the most pointless secular festival of the year. It allows us to get our spending going on various cheap pieces of plastic junk before the main event starts to unfold.

We’ve just about made it through the joys of Black Friday in one piece, and can now look forward to Cyber Monday for a second helping. Don’t forget to stick even more lights on the outside of your house next week. Remember tastefulness and understatement at Christmas went out of fashion a long time ago. Make sure, too, that you only use the plump, jolly, red version of Santa that Coca Cola bequeathed to us back in 1931. And buy too much food and spend too much on your credit cards, trying not to let it worry you until the bill drops through the letterbox in January. Don’t even feel guilty if Jesus doesn’t get a look in. Materialism and greed are firmly established as the new gods of Christmas.

According to recent polls, 51 per cent of people now say that the birth of Jesus is irrelevant to their Christmas. Just 12 per cent of adults know the Nativity story in any depth, and 36 per cent of children do not know whose birthday is being celebrated during the festival. Fantastic. We’re well on the way to taking God out of Christmas and in His place we’ve blessed ourselves with a season of meaningless over-consumption. As is the nature of such practices, once the piles of shredded wrapping paper have been disposed of, we’ll be left wondering whether it was worth all the fuss, and certainly feeling no better for it.

Is anyone else more than a little disappointed with where we’ve ended up? A hundred years ago, Advent, which starts tomorrow, was a period of fasting that pointed towards Christmas Day. Now Black Friday jumps the gun and takes our eyes off the meaning of it all even more. After the spending frenzy, parties and preparations, it’s very easy to end up being so exhausted that we’re glad to get Christmas Day over with.

There is a distinct irony that the key players in the story that gave us Christ-mass didn’t have a slick, big budget marketing campaign with celebrity endorsements. Instead, Mary and Joseph turned up late to Bethlehem dirty and tired. The setting for the night above all nights was a grimy space only fit for animals, and the supporting cast was a collection of nobodies who were more used to sheep for company. When the greatest gift of all arrived, He was not wrapped in any finery, but at that moment the sky burst open in angelic celebration that no TV performance could ever match.

Christmas becomes far more valuable when we accept that the gifts we give each other are nothing compared to God’s heavenly gift embodied in a baby. The greatest joy at Christmas cannot be bought with any amount of money. What looks worthless on the outside brings eternal satisfaction, but if we choose to place shiny, glittery things at the centre of Christmas, then no matter how much effort we put in or how much we spend, we will never come away fully satisfied or with any sense of perspective of what really matters.

I realise that this might well sound like the ranting of someone who is turning into a grumpy old man. I may be annoyed with the news reports of shoppers coming close to rioting. But, above any sense of anger, are feelings of pity and sadness that so many are searching for their very own perfect Christmas, full of joy and happiness, but will not find it even though it is laid out for the taking because they celebrate Christmas with their eyes closed.

There is a beautiful light that shines brightly at this time of year, and it is waiting to be seen. This light is the true hope of Christmas that leads to a full and abundant life. But until eyes and hearts are opened, and Jesus is placed back at the centre, we can only expect these increasingly hedonistic retail frenzies to be the feature that defines this once holy season.

  • sarky

    Although their is no “christ” in my Christmas, I must admit to feeling as sick as you at the black friday chaos. I am not alone in this with pretty much everyone I know disgusted in people behaving like animals over a 32″ samsung. Is it the peoples fault? Or is it the the retailers? I think the government is probably to blame. By enforcing austerity on us over the last few years and at the same time encouraging consumerism, people will fight for the latest gadgets even if they dont have the money. There are too many people with champagne lifestyles and lemonade budgets and black friday justencourages this.

  • Politically__Incorrect

    It is a long time since I can say I have actually enjoyed the festivities of Christmas. Frankly, I prefer boxing Day, knowing that that the mayhem is behind us for another twelve months and I can look forward to Easter. I prefer Easter, perhaps because it is less swamped by commercialism, but also because I find the spiritual message of Easter utterly compelling.

    The public ignorance and illiteracy about the Christian meaning of Christmas is tragic, but not surprising in a society that has chosen to despise its creator in favour of its man-made idols. These idols bring no satisifaction. The faces of the people in those photos reveal that. They seem possessed by possessions. Hollow, empty souls, craving for something that does not even satisfy. We should even pity them.

    Another thing that irritates me is the label “Season of Goodwill”. Why should we only show goodwill at Christmas? It seems hypocritical to invite your neighbour in for a mince pie at Christmas, and ignore him the rest of the year.

    If you get chance, watch “grumpy old Christmas” on television. They seem to put it on every year. It is an amusing precis of what Christmas has become to many people.

  • The problem is that if one retailer does it, the others have to do the same or lose trade, but in the long term the overall sales show little change.
    I have a friend who works as an accountant for a major chain store. Apparently they didn’t want to open on Sundays but found they were losing trade. So they opened Sundays, weekly sales returned to previous levels, but costs rose because of the extra wage bill. One suspects Black Friday is much the same, it’s a no-win situation for many shops.
    I stayed indoors!

    • Dominic Stockford

      Not the experience of The Entertainer toyshop chain – who refuse to open on Sundays and do better than others.

      • I’m glad that’s so. I’m broadly opposed to Sunday opening except for essentials. But then I lived in the days when all the shops had half day closing on Wednesday or Thursdays as well. Strange, we all survived!

        • Dominic Stockford

          I used to enjoy running down to try and get to Woolworths before they closed at 12 on a Wednesday – it’s why I’m so fit today, maybe…
          Never hurt me.

  • Dreadnaught

    If you want to reclaim your religion, dress like Jesus, behead a Santa or two and blame it on obscene Arab oil wealth.

  • Uncle Brian

    On the TV news programmes yesterday here in Brazil, the scenes they showed of shoppers squabbling and elbowing one another aside were all from Britain, none from the States or any other country. After football hooligans, are Black Friday shopping wrestlers the UK’s latest gift to world civilisation?

    • DanJ0

      Black Friday is a U.S. import probably originally by Asda ( i.e. Walmart), and sadly it seems it triggers the same response over here. Perhaps it’s not news any more about America. In recent years, I’ve mostly heard about it happening in America when someone shoots someone else over a Barbie doll or something. At the rest of going a bit ‘Emily Thornberry’, we’re already seeing the People Of Walmart phenomenon.

      • Uncle Brian

        We have Walmarts here too, and we have Black Friday here too. But as far as I can tell from the footage that they have picked out to show on the news, the British version has been judged the most spectacular.

  • len

    “Greed is good… greed works..”. is the mantra as said by ‘Gordon Gekko ‘and it seems to be applicable today!. Unbelieve scenes on’ black friday’ also in’ Ferguson’ and other places where looting seems to be a natural occurance when law and order breaks down.And secular society works on the assumption that man is basically and inherently ‘good’?.Once that thin veneer of civilization breaks down the real character of fallen man is presented and it `aint pretty.

    When man rejects God the ‘natural’ result seems to be idolatry and in this case man has deified ‘self’ we see this in the adoration of pop stars, film stars, footballers, etc.

    Self takes what it wants and woe betide anyone who gets inthe way…
    One can only look on in dismay….

    • dannybhoy

      My theory is that when Christianity takes hold in a people it transforms them.
      e.g.Europe. Gradually a more just and compassionate society emerges, the arts and sciences flourish and wealth is accrued.
      Over time the blessings are taken for granted, the values that made it possible are questioned and mocked.
      Society keeps freewheeling for a while, no obvious signs of problems but subtle changes, new laws are passed.
      All the time that society remains outwardly stable, safe and prosperous it attracts people from other nations other cultures.
      Change gathers pace. The moral laws and values are being replaced with humanitarian, democratic values. Christian tolerance and reason are attacked as being narrow, bigoted and frankly laughable. The emphasis changes to equality, diversity and inclusion of all values and lifestyles…

      It’s all there in the Old Testament! 😉

      • dannybhoy

        On a slightly lighter note here’s a clip that evidently many Germans enjoy during the festive season. A tradition one might say.
        Freddie Frinton may be remembered by some of a similar vintage to myself as the plumber in “Meet the wife” (Thora Hird).
        He was born in Grimsby and although he often played drunks, he was an avowed teetotaller.
        This is indeed very funny. I think The Inspector and others will enjoy it……

      • len

        There seems to be a cycle that civilisations follow “;A democracy cannot exist as a
        permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters( I would add with’ politicians as well’)
        discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.
        From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates
        promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the
        result that a democracy always collapses over a loss of fiscal
        responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of
        the world’s great civilizations before they decline has been 200
        years. These nations have progressed in this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith,

        From spiritual faith to great courage,

        From courage to liberty,

        From liberty to abundance,

        From abundance to selfishness,

        From selfishness to complacency,

        From complacency to apathy,

        From apathy to dependency,

        From dependency back again to bondage.” (
        Alexander Fraser Tytler,)
        (I know where I would place us on this list)

      • alternative_perspective


        society is gentrified by a thousand years of Christianity and because people forget how they used to treat eachother and that society seems generally peaceful they assume this is the natural human condition.

        Au contraire. Human Id, to use a Freudian term: hedonism, greed, lust, selfishness and will to power exist and will do as long as humans do. But the super ego, to continue the theme, has been indoctrinated by Christ to deny these.
        As Christ is denied and truth with it, objective values crumble and relativism takes hold. A million subjective opinions constitute truth and each denies restraint and imposed norms in its own way. Eventually the Christian principles that civilised society are relativised. Societal norms no longer indoctrinate individuals, individuals judge and dismantle societal norms. And thus the Super Ego over a dozen generations is diminished and the Id is no longer restrained. Until, eventually the the Id rules the Super Ego and societal norms comform to it.
        Whence, we arrive at Sodom and Gomorrah and the institutionalisation of Id values. At which point society is ripe for judgenment and the end comes.

  • Inspector General

    There’s much to be wound up about in this life Gillan, but the annual spendthrift shenanigans is not one of them. One is convinced that the short days and long nights in the northern hemisphere causes an insanity in the herd which seeks relief from material possessions. Tis desperate times for some.

    The Inspector himself is not affected, as you would expect from the superior product that he is. So join him and have pity aplenty for those who suffer the condition…

  • Inspector General

    The Inspector will shortly repair to the “Mouse and Wheel”, one of the few
    places in Gloucester where you won’t find eastern Europeans on the make at our
    expense. He will of course endure the indignity of sitting under strips of coloured crap hanging from the ceiling. For the true Christmas spirit, straw should be scattered on the bar floor, and liberal amounts of sheep poo thrown in for good measure, don’t you think…

    • Uncle Brian

      When you say “thrown in”, you don’t mean thrown into the beer, do you? I’ve never been to Gloucester and if that’s the sort of thing you get up to there, I don’t think I ever will.

      • Inspector General

        Mulled beer, old chap. For some reason unbeknown to the Inspector, the place takes good liquor and boils the alcohol off during the season. Not that we regulars would dare complain – the bar staff are Herod’s men, we think…

        • CliveM

          Mulled beer! Yuck………………

          Mulled Cider, perhaps,

          Mulled wine, yes,

          Mulled beer, never!

        • Uncle Brian

          Inspector, if you feel up to a 40-mile drive along the M5, you may enjoy a visit to one or two hostelries in the fine city of Bristol. Or are you already familiar with them all? I have fond
          memories of a splendid establishment by the name of the Old Duke. In or near Colston Street, if memory serves, within walking distance of St Mary-on-the-Quay, the Catholic church in the city centre.

          • CliveM

            Tsk, tsk……..

            Your not suggesting drink/driving……!!

          • Uncle Brian

            Far be it from perish the thought!

  • DanJ0

    Article: “Black Friday now marks the official start of the commercialised version of Christmas.”

    Personally, I’ve nothing much against retail outlets using Christmas an a sales opportunity, and everyone loves a bargain, but the scenes yesterday were truly sickening for their greed and lack of dignity or respect.

    • There will be other sales, there are bargains to be had all year round
      these days, why bother degrading yourself and risk being trampled
      upon for the sake of a slim chance of bagging a ‘bargain’
      I remember the January sale at Harrods in the 70’s where they lured
      customers with a real fur coat for £5 and women queing for days

  • Albert

    In the words of Mikhail Gorbachev the day before he took office: “We can’t go on living like this.”

    I suspect we probably won’t.

  • Dominic Stockford

    Oliver Cromwell had a good point you know.

    • Uncle Brian

      Do you mean about abolishing Christmas? Because it’s unscriptural, I suppose. There was no “Do this in memory of me” at Bethlehem. I’m afraid I can’t agree. Gillan’s complaint is about what Christmas has been turned into, not about commemorating Christmas itself.

      • Dominic Stockford

        Oliver Cromwell did not abolish the anniversary of the birth of Christ, he couldn’t do that. No-one can abolish something that has already happened. No, he could see the disgusting way in which people took it as an excuse to throw aside all self-control, and so he banned celebration of it. If the government were to do the sane thing and remove it from the list of public holidys then it would return to a Christian thanksgiving, celebrated by Christians, rather than the excuse for all and sundry to take part in the disgusting orgy of over-indulgence and greed which it has become.

        • From ‘The Cromwell Association’ website:

          “Increasingly in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, many people, especially the more Godly, came to frown upon this celebration of Christmas, for two reasons. Firstly, they disliked all the waste, extravagance, disorder, sin and immorality of the Christmas celebrations. Secondly, they saw Christmas (that is, Christ’s mass) as an unwelcome survival of the Roman Catholic faith, as a ceremony particularly encouraged by the Catholic church and by the recusant community in England and Wales, a popish festival with no biblical justification – nowhere had God called upon mankind to celebrate Christ’s nativity in this way, they said. What this group wanted was a much stricter observance of the Lord’s day (Sundays), but the abolition of the popish and often sinful celebration of Christmas, as well as of Easter, Whitsun and assorted other festivals and saints’ days.

          In the early 1640s … parliament began the process of clamping down on the celebration of Christmas, pressing that ‘Christ-tide’ (as they preferred it called, thus doing away with the ‘mass’ element and its Catholic echoes) should be kept, if at all, merely as a day of fasting and seeking the Lord.”

          • Dominic Stockford

            Exactly as I said, added to which is the Protestant truth, which I didn’t say, but whole-heartedly agree with.

          • Uncle Brian

            All the churches were shut on Christmas Day, and the doors locked and barred, so that people couldn’t even celebrate the date in the most Christian way possible. The Puritans did a lot of good things but they also did things that, as far as I can see, were clearly ungodly and unchristian.

            I confess that I have come to prefer the Brazilian Christmas. The midnight mass, known here as “the cockcrow mass”, has been moved forward in most churches to around 8 p.m. on the 24th. Then you go home to your Christmas dinner, held at midnight with all the kiddies present, however young. That’s when presents are exchanged. The 25th is primarily a public holiday, so you go to the beach or whatever, depending on where you live. Then that’s it, Christmas is over. The 26th is just a working day like any other. One of the things I came to dislike most about the English Christmas is that it drags on much too long, day after day after day.

          • Dominic Stockford

            I know many Christians, in this country, who do not celebrate the 25th December in church. Scotland has entire denominations who do not.

          • Uncle Brian

            I’m not surprised. But I can’t see how not going to church on a major feast day such as Christmas can be considered more “Christian” than going.

          • “Major feast day” may not be the most appropriate description for a supporter of Cromwell, Brain. And it’s Christ-tide.

          • Uncle Brian

            Point taken, Jack. What would be the correct expression instead of “feast day” in Protectorspeak?
            By the way, I left you a message yesterday in the Chatroll box. Have you seen it?

          • Feast Days and Holy Days were all big “No-No’s” for Cromwellian Puritans because of their Popish connections. The only day sanctioned for public worship was the Lord’s Day on Sunday. They did explore the possibility of an obligatory fast on every last Wednesday of the month.

          • Uncle Brian

            “Lord’s Day”, of course, is a 100 percent Catholic designation: “Dies dominica” in Church Latin from the time of Constantine onward, if not earlier. And retained as the only name of the day, in the form of “domenica” in Italian and “domingo” in Spanish and Portuguese.

          • Dominic Stockford

            I don’t believe that they consider that they are, they simply despair at the world’s perversion of Christ’s birth.
            And, below, it is in fact the ‘Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (see the BCP).

          • Uncle Brian

            Yes, like “Lord’s Day” (see a comment addressed to Jack about half an hour ago), “Nativity” is also a 100 percent Catholic designation. The name has been retained as the everyday name for Christmas in at least two languages: Navidad in Spanish and Natal in Portuguese.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Roman Catholic?! It simply means ‘birth’, it doesn’t ‘belong ‘ to any denomination.

          • And this:

            “In January 1645 a group of ministers appointed by parliament produced a new Directory of Public Worship … The Directory made clear that Sundays were to be strictly observed as holy days, for the worship of God, but that there were to be no other holy days – ‘festival days, vulgarly called Holy Days, having no warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued’. Parliamentary legislation adopting the Directory of Public Worship, initially as one of several forms which could be followed in England and Wales, but then as the only form which was legal and was to be allowed, abolishing and making illegal any other forms of worship and church services, therefore prohibited (on paper at least) the religious celebration of all other holy days, including Christmas. In June 1647 the Long Parliament reiterated this by passing an Ordinance confirming the abolition of the feasts of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun …

            “Specific penalties were to be imposed on anyone found holding or attending a special Christmas church service, it was ordered that shops and markets were to stay open on 25 December, the Lord Mayor was repeatedly ordered to ensure that London stayed open for business on 25 December, and when it met on 25 December 1656 the second Protectorate Parliament discussed the virtues of passing further legislation clamping down on the celebration of Christmas (though no Bill was, in fact, produced). Legislation was passed to ensure that Sundays were even more strictly observed as the Lord’s Day, but the holding of a regular monthly fast on the last Wednesday of the month, which had never proved popular or been widely followed, was quietly dropped.”

          • Dominic Stockford

            If you remember certain of the works of Dickens you will also note that during Victorian times the 25th December was then just another day for many.

          • Mainly the poor who were obliged to work by some cold unchristian souls, if Jack recalls ‘A Christmas Carol’ correctly.

            It was written and published at a time when there was nostalgia for earlier Christmas traditions of joy and celebration.

            Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ was one of the greatest influences in rejuvenating the old Christmas traditions of England bringing images of light, joy, warmth and life. It also exposes the opposite images of darkness, despair, coldness, sadness and death.

    • Yes, he carried a well sharpened sword.

  • carl jacobs

    Lots of stores break even during the year and make their profit at Christmas. If Christmas shopping collapsed, retail employment would collapse. And then we would complain about the additional unemployment.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with Black Friday. This is basically a queue management problem. The store deliberately creates a shortage of discount products as a loss leader to get people to shop. It then creates a feeding frenzy at the front of the queue to get the discount. That’s the problem. Assume for a moment that shoppers at the back of the queue would be given a rain check if the product they desire has already sold out. Confidence in the availability of the discounted price would lead to an orderly queue. But the store would take a much bigger hit in profit margin because it could no longer predict how many sales at a loss would occur. It doesn’t want to sell 3000 TV sets at a huge loss. It is willing to sell 100. That “First 100 people” aspect is what creates the mad competition. So the stores are creating an artificial hazard of people rushing to get to the front unless they manage the queue ruthlessly. The stores are creating the situation that produces the outcome.

    A few years back, my older daughter targeted some Black Friday discount at Wal-Mart. She and her mother (note please who was NOT there) drive to a Wal-Mart in a small community some 40 miles away. No shoving. No pushing. No beating each other with toasters. Just ordinary people obeying ordinary social conventions at a store. It was festive and fun and they had a great time together. That’s the other aspect of this. Pay attention to the store you choose. If you don’t want the crowd, then don’t choose a store in a major urban center that is likely to be crowded. Pay attention to the clientele who shop at the store. If you don’t want a crush, then don’t choose a store where people on limited income will compete for a rare chance to purchase a luxury item that is normally beyond their financial means. This is not rocket science. It’s simple common sense.

    Also. I don’t think this has much to do with Christmas because I suspect that most Black Friday shopping is for personal use. We are buying discounted products for our own use. It’s the start of the Christmas shopping season, yes. But wouldn’t we normally approve of people making good purchases at a discount? Don’t we normally call such people ‘frugal?’ When did frugality become greed?

    • “There is nothing inherently wrong with Black Friday.”

      Then you outline just what is wrong with it:

      “The store deliberately creates a shortage of discount products as a loss leader to get people to shop. It then creates a feeding frenzy at the front of the queue to get the discount. That’s the problem.”

      Hardly capitalism’s finest hour. Manipulating the greed of consumers for profit.

      • carl jacobs


        You do realize that you are treating six sigma events as the norm. At least I hope you do. Many thousands upon thousands of transactions occur on Black Friday without anyone getting beaten with a toaster. There is no moral problem with a loss leader. There is no moral problem with stores opening at midnight and offering discounts. There is a huge problem with large box stores creating an incentive for people to storm through the aisles in a desperate chase to get one of a few limited discount items. There are also obvious solutions to that problem. This has nothing to do with capitalism. It has to do with store management.

        • “There is no moral problem with a loss leader.”

          Except it plays to man’s baser instincts and is intended to generate artificial demand in order to entice consumers. Jack would say there is something immoral about that.

          Unfettered capitalism, without moral restriction, will do whatever it can within the law to create demand, reduce costs and maximise profit.

          • carl jacobs

            A discounted price is unfettered Capitalism? No wait! An excessively discounted price is unfettered Capitalism. Presumably we will need a Ministry for the Control of Excessive Price Discounts to monitor such pernicious exploitations of the Proletariat.

            You are funny, Jack. You are economically challenged. But you are funny. 😉

          • Now you are being obtuse, Carl. Jack anticipated that response. A “loss leader” is more than a discount. It is “intended to generate artificial demand in order to entice consumers”, not a discount to shift products. It is designed to “play to man’s baser instincts.”

          • carl jacobs

            Heh. And you say you aren’t a Leftist.

            Jack, discounting a price creates artificial demand in the sense that it moves the price point on the demand curve. All discounts create artificial demand by moving that point relative to the market clearing position. By lowering the price, you increase the number of people who are willing to buy. It’s called the Law of Supply and Demand. The problem in the store is not the discount but the race to get it. Were it not for the competition to be first in line, this blog post would not even exist.

            If a buyer and a seller agree on a price, what is that to you? Both have agreed and neither feels disadvantaged by the transaction. Your opinion of base motivations is of no concern to either of them. Buying is not wrong. Selling is not wring. Agreeing on a mutual price is not wrong. You opinions of their respective motivations aren’t really relevant.

          • Carl, you are deliberately missing the point.

            “By lowering the price, you increase the number of people who are willing to buy. It’s called the Law of Supply and Demand. The problem in the store is not the discount but the race to get it.”

            The whole point of loss leaders is actually to play around with the laws of supply and demand. The intention behind the phenomena we’re discussing is to generate the race by hyping demand and limiting supply so that most people actually are disappointed and, once in the store, buy something else.

          • carl jacobs


            I am not missing your point at all. I reject it out of hand. You are basically saying that to set a price too low is to tempt someone to sin. That’s nonsense. The price I choose to set is my business. Others are free to accept it or reject it as they see fit. If I offer them a good bargain on X in hopes they will purchase Y and Z, who is harmed on the transaction? Nothing forces them to purchase Y or Z. But people often make multiple purchases to avoid multiple trips. So what is the problem? The real cost is felt by the store down the street that loses the marginal purchase.

            Stores aren’t losing money on loss leaders BTW. Otherwise, they wouldn’t exist.

          • “I am not missing your point at all. I reject it out of hand.”

            Jack is familiar with the micro-economics. This is different. You see no ethical problems at all with modern capitalism? It’s all about rational producers and consumers? You obviously accept ‘consumerism’ then. You know, the process of creating unnecessary and unrealistic demand through manipulation.

            “You are basically saying that to set a price too low is to tempt someone to sin.”

            No, that’s not Jack’s point at all.. To set a price artificially low, without reference to supply and demand, with the deliberate intent to create unrealistic and insatiable demand, and then to set people against one another in the process for promotion purposes, is immoral. Not to mention the civil disturbance and risk to the public from the aggression it provokes.

          • bluedog

            ‘You know, the process of creating unnecessary and unrealistic demand through manipulation.’

            Don’t confuse politics and economics, you’ll give economics a bad name.

          • Sadly, politics is now a market place mirroring the ills of modern capitalism – misleading advertising, product misrepresentation, and empty promises.

          • carl jacobs


            1. It’s a tautology to say you are setting price independent of demand. Price is the independent variable.

            2. All discount pricing is intended to Influence purchasing behavior by changing demand.

            3. You still haven’t explained how the buyer is hurt in this transaction if he hasn’t been tempted to sin.

            4. Do you actually have a coherent definition for this fascinating concept of “unnecessary demand?”

            This is a first for me, Jack I have never seen anyone criticize a business for setting prices too low. Well, except for predatory pricing which this isn’t. But then, like a typical Leftist, you assume that people are merely objects acted upon by outside forces and so require the oversight of the wise and all-knowing state.

          • Carl, let’s start with this red-herring:

            “But then, like a typical Leftist, you assume that people are merely objects acted upon by outside forces and so require the oversight of the wise and all-knowing state.”

            Jack is not a “leftist”. He believes in free markets but they can be subject to immoral forces. You don’t believe people are influenced – at all – by “outside forces”? Has Jack suggested the state should interfere to prevent this practice? The companies themselves should act ethically within the market place.

            And this argument:

            “It’s a tautology to say you are setting price independent of demand. Price is the independent variable.

            All discount pricing is intended to Influence purchasing behavior by changing demand.”

            ‘Black Friday’ isn’t about demand and supply. It’s about enticement and about creating false demand – a need to possess something before another gets it.

            “Do you actually have a coherent definition for this fascinating concept of “unnecessary demand?””

            It’s where an agency or company creates the demand by making consumer goods the object of a man’s primary desire. Where goods become the source of identity and the goal toward which life is oriented. Take a walk down your High Street. Watch TV commercials.

            Actually, “consumerism” is the expression. It’s when the person becomes reduced to a consuming object.
            Consumerism is the consuming of life by the things consumed. It is living in a manner that is measured by having rather than being.

            It’s when the poor, driven by discontent and envy, become as consumed by what they do not have as the rich are consumed by what they do have. The question is not a question about economics. It is a cultural and moral problem. And ‘Black Friday’ is representative of all this.

            “You still haven’t explained how the buyer is hurt in this transaction if he hasn’t been tempted to sin.”

            The question is whether the affluent, consumer-oriented societies in which we live pose a constant temptation of living according to “having” rather than “being”? And that’s why ‘Black Friday’ is immoral. Jack would say consumerism is a major moral threat to the salvation of souls. It is man’s fundamental vocation to give himself to others and to God. A consumerist society makes this more difficult.

          • avi barzel

            t’s where an agency or company creates the demand by making consumer goods the object of a man’s primary desire.

            Haha haha! Seriously, Jack, its the kind of stuff they used to tell us behind the iron curtain. Communism was failing because the CIA in cahoots with capitalists made people addicted to black market jeans and leather jackets through hypnotic hippie music. Jack, “non-consumerist” society lives in smokey huts with the pigs, sits on the floor, starves and works itself to an early, hungry death for those who can get it to accept your argument. In a free society, you have to be comfy and well-fed to buy into this sort of stuff.

          • It’s a Catholic thing, Avi. Nothing in common with Communism at all. Here’s the key comment:

            … “consumerism” is the expression. It’s when the person becomes reduced to a consuming object.
            Consumerism is the consuming of life by the things consumed. It is living in a manner that is measured by having rather than being.

            It’s when the poor, driven by discontent and envy, become as consumed by what they do not have as the rich are consumed by what they do have. The question is not a question about economics. It is a cultural and moral problem.

            So, it isn’t about being a non-consumerist society. It’s about “consumerism”, where consumption and possession become ends in themselves. Where consumer goods become the object of a man’s primary desire. Where goods become the source of identity and the goal toward which life is oriented.

          • avi barzel

            Real cases of crass, overriding consumerism are a rarity in the real world, Jack. And as personality disorders and obsessive compulsion go, there are worse things to get mangled by. As for anti-consumerism being a “Catholic thing,” hardly. The cathedrals, palazzos, the fashions, the art, the banquets and pageants, cloth of gold, Spanish Main bullion…… But no complaints from me; millions of lives were improved through employment and some spectacular treasures were left for centuries of enjoyment and ongoing job and revenue generation.

            If you want to see real examples of (always short-lasting or unsuccessful) attempts to curb “consumerism” in its conspicuous consumption form, you need to look at Protestant sects, medieval rabbinic ordinances on fashions and size of weddings, Japanese codes on allowances for foods for each class, Soviet and Chinese communism and such.

            You…and Mr Scott…are actually channelling some very modern socialism-light / social justice Sunday sermon stuff presented as high-minded piety, but with a discernible whiff of elitism. If I may say so. The article below about Walmart addresses your complaints rather well. (Disclosure: to my wife’s horror, I buy clothing there whenever I can get away with it and it’s the only store I can almost tolerate shopping in).


          • avi barzel

            You’re talking about “bait and switch.” Consumer protection laws cover that, and if not, no store which does this consistently will survive for long. If the item people came for is no longer available, they walk. About 30 percent of who came for the item and got it without hassles, will look around contentedly and buy something else as well…that’s good business. Curious that a Brit, from the “nation of shopkeepers” doesn’t know this.

    • dannybhoy

      It’s the evils of consumerism. Consumerism is successful because without a spiritual dimension life depends on diversions and excuses for excess.
      Smart phones are diversionary as of course are smart tvs and computer gadgets.
      Some people are turning away from all this stuff, buying fewer presents less food or drink because they realise that Christmas just isn’t Christmas anymore.
      Over the last three years my wife and I have been downsizing, getting rid of unecessary stuff and making do.
      But I think getting ready for the “the final departure” is mainly responsible for that…..

      • “But I think getting ready for the “the final departure” is mainly responsible for that…..”
        Christmas abroad this year, is it Danny?

        • dannybhoy

          But.. you’re getting on a bit yourself aren’t you Jack??

  • Dreadnaught

    One should not ignore the fact that for their convenience, Christians chose to hijack the mid-winter Pagan piss-up that was Yule: bit late to complain now.

  • carl jacobs

    Ya know. There is an easy solution to the commercialization of Christmas. Stop participating in it. Stop buying presents. Close up your wallet. Refuse to participate. You aren’t going to achieve anything by sniffing at others with an “I’m sure glad I’m not like that” posture. If you really think that Christmas shopping detracts from its spiritual significance, then just stop.

    The secularization of Christmas is effect and not cause. Christmas traditions can happily coexist with the celebration of the birth of Christ. But there is no way to keep people from morphing popular traditions to fit their own perspective. Christians don’t own Christmas. We own our celebration of it. What we resent is the loss of cultural control that is represented by the secularization of Christmas. Is God diminished by this process? No. Is truth diminished by this process? No. Who then is diminished? We are. “It’s our damn holiday and you better celebrate it like we say.”

    Yes, that will work.

  • len

    Well you could really start somerthing here Dreadnaught because you are quite right of course!.
    When Christianity became a ‘State religion’ Christianity and paganism were united and became the RCC .
    Christianity in a pure form survived and despite persecution from the State Church has survived although you have to look very hard to find it !.

    (now see what youve done!)

  • len

    As the UK is well down the pathway to becoming a pagan Country perhaps the way Christmas is now celebrated is fitting (an orgy of feasting and alcholism?)

    Anyway we can see (by looking back into history where Christianity went underground and the State ‘ Christian religion’ started.

    • Best not to celebrate such a pagan feast then, Len.

    • There is a bit of a problem with that ‘theory’, Len. Well, it’s more than a problem. It’s actually turns out to be nonsense.

      “I submit to you that everything you’ve heard about the supposed “Pagan origin” of Christmas is false. It is much hyperventilation over nothing really. Not only is it false, but it is based on such poor scholarship that it ought to be embarrassing to anyone who embraces it. Sadly, it would seem the whole modern world has embraced this error, a serious error, which ought to give us some pause.”

      The early Church established the date of Christ’s birth well before Aurelian and Constantine. In 221 AD, Sexto Julio Africano wrote the ‘Chronographiai’ in which he affirmed that the Annunciation was March 25. Now even then people were aware that pregnancies lasted 9 months, so it was a simple matter of adding nine months to arrive at the date of Our Lord’s birth – December 25. This date was not made official until the late fourth century but it was established long beforehand. It had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

      • Old Nick

        Serious scholarly explanation about how 25th December became Jesus’s birthday, tied in to the Passion being dated to 25th March and so (by the logic common to such early Christian chronographers as Julius Africans) the Annunciation being tied in to it also. It has nothing IMHO to do with pagan festivals:

        • Dreadnaught

          Serious scholarly explanation about how 25th December became Jesus’s birthday, tied in to the Passion being dated to 25th March
          Serious scholarly explanation should be able to explain then why is the birthdate not mentioned in the Bible? It seems a strange omission for such a momentous event – key if you like – that should be left to rank speculation. Assuming the story to be true,and Joseph and Mary were there at the time, could they not have been asked by someone literate if not even all that bright – just for the record? Did no one ever throw a birthday celebration for the lad? what about even a date for his bar-mitzva?

          Sounds a bit Fishy.

          • Old Nick

            As Professor McGowan makes plain, early Christian interest in dates centred on the dating of Easter, both because it is the principal festival of the church’s year and because it had potential eschatological significance. This was placed, by perfectly sensible, though actually incorrect, calculation on the Roman date ante diem viii Kalendarum Aprilis (corresponding to March 25th). It was then assumed to be synchronized with the Lord’s conception, in accordance with a then-common notion that perfect people have mathematically perfect lives (e.g. Moses died on his birthday). Any coincidence between Christmas and Greco-Roman festivals is therefore precisely coincidence – and in particular the Saturnalia was the previous week. Christ’s birth is placed on December 25th in the Codex-Calendar of 354, which of course long predates the penetration of Christianity into the world of the Anglo-Saxons and other such

            celebrants of Yule.

          • Dreadnaught

            Which does not explain why there is nothing in the Gospels or why there is no write up from to the three wise kings either.

          • Old Nick

            Why should there be anything in the Gospels. Only two of them have a Nativity story, and none of them enumerates Three Kings. The point, surely, is precisely that what you or I might think ‘important’ is actually not important, the Logos became Man in strikingly humble insignificant circumstances. His Resurrection, per contra, achieved by the exercize of precisely the sort of humble power which made an animal feed-box his baby-bed, was a focus of serious and detailed chronographical (and other !) concern.

          • Dreadnaught

            That’s not really helpful now is it – detail of the crib but not the date? – decidedly iffy.

          • Old Nick

            Crib more important than date.

          • Dreadnaught

            Anything seems more important than evidence apparently.

          • Old Nick

            Depends on what you want evidence of. As an historian I have lots of evidence for important events to which exact dates cannot be attached. What is important is the fact of the Birth (and the Resurrection). It must have happened on some date. The conventional date was ascertained by methods which were the latest thing in chronographical science in the 2nd/3rd century and faute de mieux it can stand in for the actual unknown date for the celebration of a highly important event.

        • Old Nick, thanks for the link. The explanation given is the same as the one in the link Jack provided. There’s some additional material describing early Jewish influences on this too.

      • len

        Jesus could not have been born on December the 25th.
        This explains why;
        If one refuses to accept the paganism incorporated into Roman Catholicism then take a look at this;

    • IanCad

      Thanks for the link Len.
      When truth and error tangle the gambler profits on error.
      We are sliding downhill fast; look at the embrace Halloween has on most people.
      Well, we were told it would be so.
      A very good post Gillan, if I may say so.
      Really, you and HG do sterling work. Light for a darkening world.

  • Nick

    So let’s get this straight. At Christmas, the people are worshiping greed and mammon and not God? (But at halloween obviously they are worshiping the devil?). If they buy gifts for their loved ones they are in fact being selfish and greedy (because they are pushy and over-competitive)? If they blame God for Christmas because they have lost a loved one in the season then they are also in the wrong? If they complain about Christmas stresses then they are complainers and also in the wrong? If they don’t buy gifts at all they are misers and scrooges? If they eat and drink too much they are also wrong (because of a lack of self-control)? If they keep fault-finding each other they are also in the wrong because they should be looking for the best in people? And if there are just too many of them – that’s the fault of immigrants coming into the country? Have I got the lessons right?

  • Maturecheese

    I wonder what the orgy of greed in the shops does to Labours ‘cost of living crisis’ narrative. If one looks at the pictures it seems to be those at the bottom that are taking part, generous benefits indeed.

    • Inspector General

      Greetings Cheese. Been a long time…

      Yes, the benefits system is truly marvellous. The cleaning team at work are
      all Poles because the idle English have been spared inconveniences like
      going to work to support themselves. Why bother, they might well ask…

      No wonder TV sets are so popular at these sales…

    • avi barzel

      Ha! A blast from the past! Don’t be a stranger, Cheese!

  • While the scenes of violence (at a very few shops) is obviously deplorable, I can’t really see what an event at the end of November has to do with Christmas. The very same things may well happen during the January sales or in July if someone decides to hold such a sale then.
    Mrs Marprelate and myself ventured into our local branch of Currys and bought some printer ink cartridges at a slightly less exorbitant price than is usually available. We committed no acts or aggression and observed none. I can’t see that we committed a particularly egregious sin or destroyed the spirit of Christmas.
    However, the older I get, the more it seems reasonable to me that Christians should leave December 25th to the pagans and drunkards and meet quietly a week or three later to give thanks for the birth of our Lord. Pace Happy Jack, no one has any idea when the Lord Jesus was born, so a date in the middle of January would do perfectly well.

    • dannybhoy

      Yes, I don’t know about the “sucah” bit but most scholars agree that it was earlier than December 25th. But as long as we celebrate His birth into the world on some day, the 25th of December is as good as any. The disciples didn’t seem to think the date was important or they would have recorded it.
      The prophet Isaiah said, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit..

      “For to us a child is born,
      to us a son is given;
      and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
      and his name shall be called[b]
      Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
      7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
      there will be no end,
      on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
      to establish it and to uphold it
      with justice and with righteousness
      from this time forth and for evermore.
      The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
      Isaiah 9:6,7

    • SidneyDeane

      Yes, talk about an overreaction. What a load of guff this article really was.

  • Ian G

    Whilst agreeing with the anti-materialistic sentiment, as an RE teacher, can I remind you that there is no donkey and no stable mentioned in the scriptures. They were descendants of David, in their hometown, and would have stayed with relatives. The stable is a misreading of a Succoth booth. It was Tabernacles, which is why this is the compulsory millennial feast.
    See here for how the Magi knew the dates of His life:

    • Uncle Brian

      Hi Ian. Do you happen to know what Hoehner’s reason is for accepting AD 33 as the date of the Crucifixion, rather than 30? The usual argument for preferring 33, I believe, is that in 30 Sejanus was still alive and at the height of his power and Pilate, knowing that Sejanus was extremely hostile to the Jews, wouldn’t have given way so easily to the pressure from Annas and Caiaphas. Is that Hoehner’s reason too, do you know?

      • Ian G

        Firstly, Many thanks for reading my blog-post, especially as the formatting isn’t brilliant.

        In brief, Luke used the Roman reckoning for the fifteenth year of Tiberias which establishes the commencement of John’s ministry (AD 29) . Hoehner accepts a three year ministry of Christ for a variety of reasons. Jesus is ‘about’ thirty or as we would say ‘thirty-something’. This leads to AD33. Without re-reading the book, I can’t give you more. It is still available and well argued and researched.

        The thing is that Hoehner’s dates, modified for Tabernacles, lead to a number that would have made perfect sense to the Magi and would cohere with Daniel. That number, based on the relationship between the Babylonian calendar and the Solar calendar, gives you the basics of the Gospel. No-one has yet explained that level of ‘coincidence’.

        Hope this helps. If this really interests you, read the book and look up:

        ‘Coincidence is the last refuge of the uninspired’,
        Numb3rs Series 2.
        Which is not a dig at you or anyone else, but a statement of the implausibility of ‘coincidence’ as an explanation.

    • Anna055

      Interesting link – thank you

      • Ian G

        And thank you.

    • dannybhoy

      Here’s another link..

      It is interesting and actually highlights the value of Jewish commentary on these issues, as there are unintentional misinterpretations of the Scriptures by translators.

      • Ian G

        Agreed. I hope you have read my blog article in full. I think that I have shown that Tabernacles is the birth of Jesus. As for Chanukah, you could search my site and find last year’s posts. I may re-post them this year with additional material. The Chanukiah or Chanukah menorah is full of interesting symbolism all of which speaks of Christ.

        • dannybhoy

          No I didn’t read it in full, I was preoccupied last night. There is a lot of prophetic symbolism around the Jewish feasts in relation to the birth of our Lord, and we as gentiles often miss it because we don’t learn from our Jewish brethren.
          We know about the prophecies in Isaiah and Jeremiah but there are others.
          Interestingly, if you go back in history you find that the venerable rabbis studied these prophecies regarding the coming Messiah and if you can find the older commentaries it was clear that they were expecting a Man, perhaps two Messiahs. The suffering Messiah and the triumphant King.
          Even too an acceptance that there was a present application of prophecies and a future fulfilment..
          This seems to me to be quite a good article…..

          “Matthew’s Use of the Term “Fulfilled”

  • C S Lewis wrote 2 splendid essays about Christmas and Xmas. 2 quite different festivals which annoyingly seem to co-incide.

    He described Xmas as ‘a racket’ and wasn’t far wrong.

    My family will be avoiding shopping malls, Gok Wan (anagram) as the fairy Gokmother in Cinderella, most TV and will enjoy some rest, good food and drink, rest and reflection, support appropriate charities and, as DT Paul wrote ‘thank God for his inexpressable Gift’ 2 Corinthians 9:15)

    If others prefer mud wrestling, let them like the impenitent Scrooge ‘keep Christmas in their own way.’

    But I could do without the G* W*** posters all over town.

  • CliveM

    Lots of what I saw on the news yesterday was deeply depressing. Animalistic greed. Secularism in all it’s commercial glory.

    Today our local CofE held a Children’s activity day, focussing on the first Sunday in Advent. It had 60 children there. It was well run and focused properly on the Christmas message.

    On Christmas Day we will get up, open presents with our family, go to Church, get home, probably eat to much. Enjoy a nice wine, play games with our son.

    Our Advent Calender doesn’t have the Simpsons on it and has no Chocolate hidden behind each door.

    I will probably see 3 versions of A Christmas Carol over the holiday.

    The point of all this? CHRISTmas hasn’t changed. How we celebrate it is our choice. We can get caught up with the commercialisation, or we can remember the God child, born in Bethlehem, for us.

    We don’t need to let our Christmas to be defined by others greed, we can ensure that we at least celebrate it for what it is.

    And by doing so, being a small but important witness to the truth.

  • Mike Stallard

    Be very careful before you use this for your Advent sermon everyone. I have contacts in the Far East and they tell me that a lot of shoppers come to London for their shopping. On the pictures there weren’t a lot of Asian faces, I note. However, I am sure there are Russians in there – there usually are. I noticed, too, a very great proportion of Afro faces. Where are they from?
    So berating an English congregation for letting standards slip may not be the sensible thing to do. Now that Britain is a global magnet and air travel allows people to move very fast, the people who were buying and fighting over stuff and rioting could be well back in their comfort zone now.

    • len

      Impossible to define ‘an English crowd now?.

      We are all in a giant melting pot now(as the song went) I suspect so that our masters can rule us without the complications of a’ national identity’ religion or anything which might oppose their plans .

    • dannybhoy

      Very true.
      But equally the abandonment of our British Christian heritage has resulted in the dare I say, coarsening of some sections of our people.
      I hope that doesn’t sound snobbish. It’s not meant to, but the fact is that soap operas and “(non) celebrity barbie doll type reality shows” help this downward trend.

      • CliveM

        It’s called secularisation. What we are witnessing is just a small example of what is in store if we let it continue.

        • DanJ0

          “What we are witnessing is just a small example of what is in store if we let it continue.”

          You don’t have the power to stop it.

          • CliveM

            Maybe, maybe not. But it is still worth making the stand.
            You know something, I think even a lot of secularists feel an unease about the implications for society of this line of travel. Which is why some of them go to secular ‘Churches’ or promote secular ‘bibles’, or talk about promoting a secular philosophy.
            Now those really are pointless and highlight the emptiness at the heart of secularism. Imitating religious values won’t work. It has no spiritual glue.

          • DanJ0

            You mean a-theists, I expect.

            Atheist churches are a gimmick, and an American one at that. How many people go to them? A few thousand in total, out of a population of 320 million? In a society that is highly religious on the whole despite its secular State, so there’s something visible ‘across the road’ to feel some sort of loss over.

            People in general like to congregate and feel part of something a little bigger than themselves. We’ve lost some of that in our highly mobile, more individualistic, more urbanised society in the UK. But people can join ‘rock’ choirs, or rambling or running clubs, or parent and toddler groups, or single-issue political groups, and still get what church used to provide alongside religion.

            If people want religious values then they can have them within a religion. Values are not things people imitate, they feel them inside themselves. They don’t need to be part of some internally coherent, crossed T’s and dotted I’s system that someone has dreamt up either, as far as I can tell. I honestly don’t think people experience them as a philosophy. The non-religious still have living, breathing values.

            Finally, I agree with Danny if what he is really saying is that some sections of society seem to have lost their sense of dignity compared to (say) people in the 1950s from a similar section. I’m not sure it’s the loss of Christian heritage though. Looking back in history when England was truly Christian, wall to wall, I have no doubt lots of people were coarse, and brutal, and out for all they can get.

            I’d actually be surprised, as it goes, if people were not more altruistic now in England than they were centuries ago simply because they’re affluent enough to have the luxury of morals and the scope to truly act on their consciences. That’s not to say that ‘community spirit’ didn’t exist back then but that’s probably more down to hegemony than altruism.

          • CliveM


            See link. The ‘Churches’ I was referring to are UK ones. Still I think we both agree, they are a gimmick which won’t last. No ‘glue’.

            Their is no evidence that more affluent societies are more charitable. Indeed what evidence their (certainly in the UK) shows that poorer parts of the Country are the most giving.

            With regards the courseness of Christian societies, their I ample evidence that when you compared them to their pagan neighbours, that violence and greed where less all consuming. It is fairly well acknowledged that the medieval church had a moderating influence on the martial societies of the time.

            Yes people like community. Secularism just seems to be poor at providing it . No ‘Glue’. Nothing to bind people together you see.

          • DanJ0

            Sorry, reading that back, it sounds a bit abrupt. It wasn’t the intention.

          • CliveM

            DanJo you appear to be talking to yourself! :0)

  • Happy Cyber Monday, one and all.

  • CliveM

    I’ve been wondering, why are we accepting the suggestion that Black Friday has anything to do with Christmas?

    It came over here from the US. If anything it’s linked to Thankgiving, so why are we letting this slur go unchallenged? Even former Archbishop Cary bounced onto this bandwagon!

    Be loud, be proud! This has nothing to do with Christmas.

    • DanJ0

      I don’t think that’s really the suggestion, just that it’s now the start of the retail gorging that spans the festive season, including Christmas. That said, someone ought to tell Tesco. They started their Christmas aisle before Halloween this year. :O They’ll have cream eggs out on the 1st January at this rate.

      • CliveM

        You may laugh but I think that is when they had them out this year!

  • grutchyngfysch

    An alternative perspective (intended to complement rather than denounce the view above the line): I did a straw poll of people moaning or celebrating Black Friday on my Facebook feed – hardly scientific, but this is only to provoke thought. The middle classes moaned (but still bought stuff) and the working classes were joyfully announcing that the gift for their offspring or friend (or themselves) that they had hitherto found to be unaffordable was now affordable.

    It’s easy to condemn consumerism – it’s much harder to live in a way that is not in thrall to it. Anyone intending to sell their goods and live in common with their brothers and sisters?

    We all honour the incense and myrrh – and even the gold inasmuch as it is a symbol of kingship – but we can just as easily loose sight of the *material value* of those gifts: they were expensive, extravagant even, and given to a relatively poor family. What do we suppose the gold went on to do in the Nativity household – sit on a shelf for all to admire?