After Thanksgiving, my email inbox was inundated with emails from firms wanting me to shop, in the stores, on-line, Black Friday, Cyber Monday. Shop, shop, shop — until I drop, and my credit card balance soars to the stratosphere. The temptation is to buy all these wonderful bargains, so we, or those we love, will be happy in extravagant holiday abundance. But the merchants’ motive is profit, not our happiness. If they can, they will sell you plastic plunk or pet rocks as happily as men’s or women’s or children’s toys.
I don’t know if you feel it, but, increasingly, I need to pull back from this wave of pressing commercialism. Did Jesus become human so that we could rush about and buy things that we do not need to celebrate His birth? Did He come so that we could clutter our homes and add to the plastic waste that sullies the seas and adds to the trash blowing through the interstates wherever I go? No!
This week I asked the children in children’s chapel whether they had an Advent calendar. About two-thirds had one, but half of them referred to it as a chocolate calendar. I thought again of how there is an increasing distancing in our culture from a Christmas that celebrates Christ and a holiday that encourages consumption. I also winced to hear second-hand of a young grandson’s demands of his grandparents: he wanted his presents (all expensive electronics) before Christmas. If we do not check the greed in our children while young, what kind of women and men will we loose upon the world? Nowhere is contemporary Christmas worse than when it becomes occasion for children to demand stuff without grace or restraint.
Christ came to restore us to a relationship with God and with one another. I do understand that the making of things, including consumer items, provides jobs, and jobs provide people’s livelihood. Still, a renewed emphasis on simplicity and value and beauty seems part of our living as intentional Christians. The point is to start with a question or two: How does Jesus want us to keep His feast? What delights His heart?
A feast, in the old sense, of good food and fellowship, and a few small or carefully chosen gifts of real value would seem to be that which pleases the heart of Christ. That — and a lot of music — makes for the way to celebrate His coming. Finally, let us make sure that we send such gifts to the Messiah’s birthday that He takes them as to Himself. Consider gifts of food and money to organizations such as Irving Cares, that serve the poor in our area. For Jesus is clear, “Insofar as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me. (Matthew 25) As we prepare for His second coming, let’s celebrate His first in ways that honor Him and please the heart of God.