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Feast Example and Festival Etiquette

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Feast Example and Festival Etiquette

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How many of us have had the experience of waiting patiently in line for quite some time only to have someone cut in front of us without bothering to wait his or her turn? We shake our heads in dismay and say to ourselves, "How rude!" The average person finds rude behavior to be unpleasant and, at times, even downright offensive; however, we live in a "me first" society where the so-called rights of the individual are seen as being of paramount importance. This self-centered mentality results in the manufacture of adults who have not learned how their unilateral behavior negatively affects others. Egocentric conduct in our Western civilization has been highly extolled and become so acceptable that it even has a tendency to spill over into the Church itself. It is vital that good manners and good etiquette be modeled by practicing Christians both in the home and in each of our congregations. The most significant place to model wholesome Christian conduct to those outside of our fellowship, however, is at the Feast of Tabernacles. When we convene for eight days to observe the Feast in locations all over the world, we can know with certainty that each and every one of us as attendees will be watched very closely by the surrounding community. Some will be observing with no prior preconceptions; some will be observing to see if this year's conduct will be the same as last year's. Still others will be observing with reserved skepticism. With this in mind, we remind ourselves how people—including all Feastgoers—never get a second chance to make a first impression. First impressions make an impact, and they are lasting. We Are Being Watched What is our driving like on the way to the Feast site and especially at the Feast site itself? There was a time when the Church issued automobile bumper stickers to all members, and consequently the community (and fellow attendees) knew who was in town to attend the Feast. It was extra exciting to spot a car with such a sticker. In those days there was no way to be an anonymous driver. It was like having to wear a Feast ID badge everywhere you went throughout the entire week—morning, afternoon and evening. It seems we humans behave better when we know that we are not protected by anonymity. However, we should realize that our Heavenly Father is watching us at all times and that there is no such thing as anonymity before the One to whom we must ultimately answer for all things. With this in mind we recall that Matthew 12:36 states: "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment." Practicing Christians are those who typically follow the rules and do so with a keen awareness of the intent and not merely the letter. Peter declares: "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (1 Peter 2:13). How Will They Remember Us? For instance, there are rules of the road, both for drivers and pedestrians. Similarly, there are also rules for behavior in a hotel lobby, hotel hallways, game rooms and swimming pools. Do motel operators look forward to our return to their establishments year by year? Hopefully, they remember us as the special people who are typically neat, clean, orderly and obey the house rules ardently. Hopefully, they remember us as practicing Christians who don't allow their children to run up and down the hallways yelling, screaming and stomping their feet. Hopefully, they remember us as being courteous and considerate so that we allow the elderly to get on and off the elevators first. Hopefully, they remember us as being part of the most polite and well-organized group they have coming to their facility. No Hint of Alcohol Abuse After a time, it becomes known that our church denomination does not forbid the consumption of alcohol. At the Feast we have a golden opportunity to display the proper way to consume alcoholic beverages in such a way that there is no hint of any misuse or abuse. Regrettably, there have been instances in years past when alcohol has not been consumed with the kind of moderation that the Bible strictly requires. Some have even had to be sent home from the Feast because of profligate partying. The Feast of Tabernacles is not a time for partying but a time to come before God to humbly worship and eagerly learn and be spiritually renewed. Peter also states, "Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you" (1 Peter 4:4, King James Version). Any kind of excess is certainly not appropriate in a believer's life. However, there are temptations that can come back to haunt even God's people because of the stimuli that can be found, especially in an urban Feast setting. Not Rude in Restaurants The conduct of Church members in restaurants is also very important. This applies whether we are singles, couples or a large family. Often the number of Feast attendees overwhelm some eating establishments, and they are not initially prepared to handle so many people coming at the same time and/or needing to leave at the same time. Even if we aren't served as well as we should have been or as efficiently as we should have been—or even if the food was not as warm as it should have been—we must never, ever be rude. No matter what happens in whatever setting you find yourself in, always behave with class, that is, with Christian decorum and dignity. It is possible to complain without causing a scene. Being Considerate at Services When it comes to daily church services, it is most important to arrive on time. Some people are habitually late. One discerning man once remarked, "Why should I make God wait for me?" Because of this, he and his wife always arrived early for church services. Be as quiet as is reasonably possible during each and every service, seminar and Bible study. Take noisy and fussing children out of the hall as soon as possible so that others are not disturbed and distracted. Don't bring ailing children, or even yourself if you are sick, to church services or other church functions. This will prevent others from being infected and will shorten recovery time for those who are ill. Wait patiently until the speaker has started walking away from the pulpit before starting to put your Bible, notebook and pen away. There have been times when a speaker's concluding comments have not been heard because of the noise of slamming Bibles, rustling notebook pages and snapping briefcases and laptop computers. The Feast of Tabernacles is a wonderful time during which we learn more about God's way of life, spend time with friends in a relaxing setting and sample a foretaste of the world to come. It is also a time, however, to preach the gospel by our example. Those who happen to be around us are watching us. That includes those who are keeping the Feast for the very first time in their lives. May we all observe the Christian way of life and may others wish to live as we do in honor of our Savior. UN