Monday, December 1, 2008
I came across a site called Buy Nothing Christmas the other day (thanks to my friend Scott Gunn at Seven Whole Days). It seems that each holiday season, as the consumer frenzy increases, so does the effort to counter it. And the effort to restore the true meaning of Christmas grows stronger as well. Now, I am as happy to give and receive gifts as the next person. However, can there be any doubt that the sheer quantity of gifts given far exceeds the bounds of reason? Certainly, this orgy of acquisition bears little resemblance to the true meaning of Christmas.
Remember Jesus? Lets think for a minute what Jesus might give or receive if he were here to celebrate Christmas. I don't think that a flat-panel, hi-def tv would be on the list. I don't think that he'd be giving out CDs or DVDs to people who already have everything that they need. Laptops, iPods, sweaters, books - no, no, no, and no. Its not that I think that Jesus is against these things. I just can't imagine Jesus thinking that they are appropriate gifts by which to celebrate his birthday.
If none of these things is the stuff of Christmas, what is one to do given the cultural expectation that we give virtually everyone we know a gift! Well, the folks at Buy Nothing Christmas have some ideas. They have an online catalogue that offers ways to share your love without busting the bank. The ideas focus on love and relationship. Some of them seem downright silly. However, perhaps this is the year, when money is tight anyway, to give some of them a try. They might not replace completely the items on your list, particularly if you have children who will wake up with great expectation on Christmas morning. However, they might cut into the list somewhat.
If you must spend money, why not make a donation in the name of a loved one to your favorite charity. It seems to me that that might make Jesus smile if he were here. After all, it was one of his disciples who said: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1.27). If these words really do cut to the heart of what Jesus is about, then why not make this the centerpiece of our Christmas celebration - to care for the widow and orphan (or the AIDS patient, the refugee, the prisoner, the unemployed, etc)? Notice the last phrase - "to keep oneself unstained by the world." Celebrating Christmas differently is counter-cultural. It requires a choice. It means that we decide to do things in ways that might raise eyebrows, that might make us stand out. What's wrong with that? We don't have to buy into the unhealthy patterns and cultural norms of "the world."
I hear many people bemoan the craziness of the holiday season. However like lemmings, we buy into it and play the game, all the while recognizing that its just not right. Well, here's a newsflash for you. If we don't do something about it, why expect that anyone else will? We can only control what we can do. So, this season, take matters into your own hands. Be counter-cultural. Don't go shopping. Give the gift of love. Give a gift that will provide food for the hungry. Give - give something life-changing. Let it start with us. Dare to be different!