Gonna buy me a fine Christmas

It’s Christmastime again, as if anyone who has been in a store since Halloween doesn’t realize it. Due to my recent rant about Advent, all my readers know that I’m prone to object loudly to things that are prone to disrupt my celebration of the birth of Jesus. You might think that if I work myself into a froth over the mere mention of the “blood of Christ” during a Christmas service, I’d certainly go full-metal-jacket crazy when considering the commercialization of Christmas. But you might be surprised.

In truth, I see little problem with it. Certainly, I wish the stores would start a little later; it’s really hard to get into the Halloween spirit of spooky goblins and scary ghosts when there’s a friendly 8-foot inflatable Santa sitting in the very same aisle. It’s hard enough to suspend my disbelief enough to be scared by a talking plastic skeleton without some motion-activated Santa yelling “Ho Ho Ho” over the din of rattling chains and witches’ shrieks. And maybe it’s just me, but I seem to recall more attention given to Thanksgiving when I was a child. I wish the holiday where we are supposed to concentrate on feeling thankful for the things and friends we have already wasn’t so overshadowed by the holiday where the focus turns towards what we’re going to give and receive in the future. I like my holidays the way a child likes to eat his food. Keep it all clearly separate and pure; enjoy (or not) one thing at a time for what it is.

But despite my desire for a greater logical separation of the various end-of-season holidays, I want my Christmas fully commercialized. I want all the stores to be fully stocked with cool decorations and the latest trinkets and gadgets and toys. I want the malls to be fully decked out with their midway displays. And I submit that all this is fully congruent with the true spirit of Christmas, and am fairly amazed at the people who say it isn’t.

Christmas is about giving and receiving gifts of great value (for suitable definitions of “value”). The ancient pagan feasts were celebrations that the worst was over; the sun was indeed not going away forever—it was coming back and bringing with it the promise of a new spring and a new beginning of the cycle of life. The Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus is the recognition of the gift He gave us and the celebration of our reception of it. The secular celebrations likewise place their emphasis on the recognition and appreciation of, and the fellowship with family, friends, and fellow man marked by the generous giving and the humble receiving of presents. Children everywhere may concern themselves with what they’re going to get from Santa, but it should not escape our notice the intense veneration, thankfulness and high esteem they freely return to the the giver.

I hear of parents who refuse to take their children to the mall during the Christmas season. They cite the hassles of the traffic and how busy the malls are. They cite their annoyance at the commercialization and how they wish to teach their kids the “true meaning of Christmas”. I find in my heart nothing but pity for both them and their children. There is always a great sadness whenever someone ceases to be able to hear the clear ringing of Santa’s sleighbell (ref: The Polar Express), especially if it then causes them to deny the sound to someone who still can.

Have you ever seen the eyes of a young child when entering the typical mall on Christmas? Even if you have become too jaded to see the magic and wonder in the spectacle itself, can you not detect that it is there—and quite real—simply by watching them? Like a scientist who detects dark matter by carefully examining its interactions with visible matter, all observant people should be able to detect the presence of magic they themselves cannot directly see simply by watching the ones who can.

Does the fact that people have an intense desire to buy presents for their friends and family during Christmas actually ruin the season? That is the basis for the commercialization. People desire the joy of giving, so they give presents. What does it matter (for anyone who denies magic) whether one spends 10 hours building a gift or spends 10 hours working for the money to buy a gift? The same time is spent acting in a selfless manner; the same love is present in the giving.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there aren’t problems and issues with it all. People who don’t fully embrace the spirit frequently act like total jerks to each other in these malls in the rush to get in and out as fast as they possibly can. People with a poor sense of true value wind up feeling inadequate because they cannot afford to spend as much as the guy next door on gifts or decorations, and maybe the fear of those feelings drives them to go into significant debt to buy the latest hot gifts. But these are problems with individual people, not a problem with the commercialization of Christmas. Merchants who are doing nothing more than providing what we want—what we need—should not be held accountable for the people who cannot grasp even the basic concepts of giving and receiving and good will towards their fellow man.

What is needed is for people to realize that the value of a gift has nothing whatsoever to do with the purchase cost of a gift, and that many times, the simplest, cheapest things hold far greater value than the most expensive and prestigious consumer goods. They need to realize that going into debt—giving a gift that actively harms you—is likely not what your friend would wish you to do for them. They need to learn to expect that there will be long lines and to plan accordingly and to not get so frustrated that they can’t just run in and get what they want and be gone. Giving smiles to the other shoppers is itself a gift which shows one’s understanding of Christmas, giving frowns and anger shows that one does not.

To finish up this post, I’d like to share a video which I found incredibly moving, albeit it strikes notes which may seem, on the surface, to be discordant with the ideas I presented in this post. If you have true understanding, you’ll notice that I’m not actually arguing against the overwhelmingly powerful message in the video…it just seems that way.

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3 Responses to “Gonna buy me a fine Christmas”

  1. Societyvs Says:

    I really love the Christmas season and the New Year’s celebrations - I think it is the best time of the whole year - as far as sttitude changes for the better go. The reason for the season truly is community, family, faith, and sharing.

    As for the whole debt thing - that’s just plain stupid to do. I like the message of sharing that is inherent in the gospel and my biggest hope for the church one day is that it becomes a place of programs and sharing for the ‘least of these’ - thus including the whole community and all of the church family. I see something great for the church but as of now - I have yet to see how that institution can become a place of ‘refuge and charity’.

  2. Lon Says:

    @Societyvs: I generally don’t reply to comments that I’m in agreement with, but I was struck by your “I see something great for the church….” statement.

    Y’know, I do too. I have long held the hope that the Christian church would transform itself from being a religion about Jesus into the religion of Jesus. A church where the doctrines taught by Jesus himself are held to be the standard by which all other doctrines are judged. And when I say all other doctrines, I mean it literally, including other doctrines one sees in the scriptures and ones currently taught in the church.

    The nice thing is, I am beginning to see it happening. People are slowly beginning to reject forms of Christianity that use quotes from the Old Testament to justify hatred and injustice and other things which clearly go against Jesus’ teachings. People are beginning to use not just science, but what we can discern of the actual teachings of Jesus himself to exorcise the mindless, irrelevant superstitions and political influences which have so severely retarded mankind’s understanding of God’s kingdom thus far.

    Give it another couple thousand years. :D

    P.S. Nice blog you have there.

  3. Societyvs Says:

    Thanks Lon - I appreciate your writings - you will likely see me around here for sometime commenting and getting involved - because believe it or not - blogs are communities.