Christmas & Commercialism

Over the last several years, I have encountered an increasing number of articles and discussions about the “secularization” or “commercialization” of Christmas.  Recently, a local newscast conducted a street poll in which nearly every interviewee agreed that Christmas was “coming earlier and earlier every year.” 

Christmas music starts too soon.  Stores bring out decorations too soon.  People are expected to give too much. 

Far and away, the largest numbers of criticisms (at least the ones I’ve heard) come from within the Christian community.  After all, “Christmas is about the Word becoming flesh (John 1:14), the birth of Jesus our Savior, not about presents and shopping.” 

Well, okay.  There’s truth in that.  Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth, not a celebration of shopping, but I think the criticism may have missed the mark in a significant way. 

The problem with the criticism is that, if carried too far, it actually denies the nature of the Incarnation.  At Christmas, we celebrate God being made man, the Word becoming flesh, the invisible God appearing in the Person of Christ, providing us with the image of the Father.  The love of God, great enough to make us children of God (1st John 3:1), was made known to us in visible form.  He was seen, heard, and touched (1st John 1:1-4).  God lived among us (Matthew 1:23).

Sure, the season is commercialized and watered down by some.  Yes, people seem to ignore Christ while celebrating (unawares) His birth.  But I don’t think that’s the problem.  The truly sad event is when Christians forget that Christmas is a time when love becomes “incarnational,” visible, observable.  Shouldn’t that happen all year?  Yes, but the motivating factor behind it the rest of the year is the Incarnation of Love at Christmas. 

Avoid the over-commercialization (Example – Your nativity scene probably shouldn’t include Santa bringing a toy bike to the baby Jesus) but don’t swerve into the ditch on the other side of the road either. 

Remember that Christmas is a time to give gifts, make fudge, eat great foods, enjoy great wine, celebrate with family, party with co-workers, eat more great food, watch the same old movies, and enjoy more great wine.  Christmas is a time to enjoy the good gifts of God and to give good gifts in His name. 

We do these things as acts of incarnational love and nothing could be more fitting for the season.  

Highet on the power of the mind

From Man’s Unconquerable Mind by Gilbert Highet:

It was the western part of the empire, the Roman part, that collapsed first; the eastern sector, the Greek-speaking area, maintained itself under almost incessant attacks for another thousand years. And if one were asked to venture a single explanation of that odd disparity, one would do well to say that it came because the men of the West liked wealth and enjoyment, while the men of the East liked thinking. Power and pleasure finally softened the hard Romans and the people of their satellite provinces. The supple Greeks went on talking and arguing and fighting and inventing. If the mind is kept in use, its powers are inexhaustible.

If we are in a cultural crisis, perhaps the best thing we can do is start an argument! Anything to activate the mind – our own as well as others.