I hate to sound like the grinch but in many ways, Christmas bums me out. Not what it stands for, but what it’s become. I absolutely loathe the corporate usurpation of this holiday, and it saddens me to see people flinging themselves headlong into it. Of course, the companies simply respond to the people, so this usurpation really says more about the state of individuals than anything else. We wouldn’t be increasingly bombarded with consumer propaganda if we, as individuals, took more seriously Jesus’ command to love not the world. What follows is an updated version of a piece I wrote ten years ago.
Many say giving is what the season is all about. For Christians, this rings true in the sense that Jesus gave His life so sinners can be reconciled to God. In that spirit, we give.
However, there is a big difference between purchasing and giving. Are we walking a conscious walk? In my experience, most people switch to autopilot during the holidays. How many of us actually stop and ask God to show us how to properly celebrate a holiday regarding His gift to the world? Consider these common conversation snippets: “What did you get for Christmas?” “I don’t know what to get so-and-so for Christmas.” “So-and-so got that for Christmas.” What buried values do these statements reflect?
It’s ironic that as a culture, we often “celebrate” the birth of Christ by furthering traditions that do not bring Him glory. Christ had no concern for material possessions. In general, the American way is now consumerism and materialistic self-worship. We do what we want, when we want, however we want. We seldom stop to think about how our desires and actions affect other creatures on this planet. Anybody who is conscious of the human need for interdependency must eventually realize that mindless consumerism and corporate domination bring very little improvement to the spiritual condition of humanity. Yet, so many of us support this meaningless melee during the holidays, giving more money to the rich oppressors of earth and man.
Jesus gave in a different way. True giving always requires risk or sacrifice on behalf of the giver. Though shoppers might argue that we “sacrifice” in the mall by spending money, such sacrifices go to the giving of dead gifts, which eventually lose their brilliance. Material things generally fall into this category. They impart temporary satisfaction to the receiver, but ultimately lack the ability to uplift or edify. The difference between dead gifts and living gifts is like the difference between junk food and healthy food. Sure, junk food tastes great, but it doesn’t nourish. In fact, it actually impedes true nourishment. So it is with dead gifts.
Living gifts directly uplift and edify. They manifest the inner gifts we desire for the receiver. Make that apology or confession to a friend or family member that you’ve been putting off. This involves risk on your part. Bring healing to broken relationships. Converse with those you normally avoid. Pay random compliments. Walk through a downtrodden neighborhood and put a hot plate of food in the hands of an unsuspecting person. Smile instead of adorning a hurried frown. No one needs Target or Walmart. Most people don’t need more things, especially not when love, hope, faith, truth, health and charity are viable options—and often sorely lacking.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to buy presents for your loved ones, but if our entire concept of Christmas revolves around dead gifts, we might want to do some thinking. As the Scriptures hold, God knows our hearts and motives. He wants us to follow the example of Jesus. To Jesus, giving was much more than gratifying a temporary material desire. When you feel the frantic and rushed pace of the holidays, pull back, and question everything.
As a Christian, every action should be spiritually directed and geared towards bringing glory to God by serving others. Paul writes, “everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) Christmas, like Christianity, presents opportunities to serve others and meet their spiritual needs. What is the benefit of a holy-day if it does not increase holy-ness? Challenge yourself with some serious thinking. Ask God what your loved ones really need, and for the means to supply it. In doing so, you will bring Him glory.