I recently received a message from a friend that began “I know the Christmas Season is a financially difficult time for everyone but…”
The message went out to request help for a needy family. That is wonderful and exactly what we should be doing in celebration of Christmas–helping the needy.
But the way the message began speaks volumes about how our culture has infected and destroyed Christmas. “I know Christmas is a financially difficult time for everyone.” Why should Christmas be a financially difficult time? Christmas should be free. It shouldn’t cost anything. It is a day to pay special attention to the birth of a poor baby who would save the world. Why should that be “a financially difficult time for everyone”?
What we have done is make money, and lots of it, necessary for the celebration of Christmas. Whatever joy and peace we get in the Christmas season, the shadow of debt and stress and fear of unmet expectations hangs over it.
It shouldn’t cost money to be a Christian. We aren’t Scientologists. The Christmas season shouldn’t be a financially difficult time for everyone. In fact, it shouldn’t be a financially difficult time for anyone.
Most of what we spend on Christmas is wasted. For what we spend on wrapping paper alone, we could make a huge dent in ending world hunger. But leaving aside nauseating facts like that, many of us are driven by societal pressure to spend money we don’t have to try to satisfy societal appearances. What if we don’t spend lots of money to buy Christmas decorations? Would that somehow dishonor a savior who was born in a barn? What if we don’t buy gifts for people who don’t need them? Did Jesus ever command us to do that? Is there anything in the Christmas story that would lead to the conclusion that we should burden ourselves with debt and stress to buy presents for one another?
What if Christians took back Christmas? Let the unbelievers borrow and spend and overconsume. Let Christmas be a financially difficult time for them, if they so choose. But for believers, what if there was no financial difficulty at Christmas? What if we celebrated Christmas in a way that made it impossible for there to be financial difficulty? In my humble opinion, that would be truly honoring the spirit of Christmas.
I’ll keep dreaming….