Joy to the World?

Yesterday I heard on the radio that a recent poll shows that nearly 50% of Americans would prefer that Christmas not exist, because of the stress and financial pressure the holidays cause.

Every year, it seems,  I hear something similar and every year it saddens, hurts and sometimes angers me.

I’ve put up some mighty rants in the past against how we celebrate the consumerist frenzy that we call Christmas (for example, HERE and HERE and HERE).  I won’t repeat everything I’ve said in them, mostly because it usually seems that the only folks who will agree with me already have those opinions, and the reaction of those who don’t agree will be that I’m advocating taking away their fun.

But I can’t resist one observation.  This is also the time of year we see repeated demands from people to “keep Christ in Christmas,” “remember the reason for the season” and the like.  On the surface it would appear that those folks are resisting the commercialism and appreciate Christmas for its religious significance, not because it means they get to buy and receive a lot of stuff.  But honestly I usually see no difference in how most of them behave and how an average irreligious consumer behaves.  They might put a little manger scene in among their other decorations, but they don’t seem to buy and receive any less than anyone else.  Often their insistence to “keep Christ in Christmas” just means they want store clerks to greet them with “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays.”  Of course there a few sincere resistors out there, and I admire them.  It isn’t easy to say no.  It gets you branded as a scrooge, grinch and cheapskate–by Christians and non-Christians alike.  I should know.

But back to the poll that motivated this post.

As we enjoy our spending sprees this season, I hope we’ll reflect for a moment or two on how much pain this season causes people who are financially unable to meet the expectations society places on them at Christmas.

Maybe we should also ponder for a moment the image of a poor unwed teenage girl, giving birth in a stable to a child who would change the world.  Should the celebration of an event like that create so much financial pressure that half of society would wish it didn’t even happen?

Love Wins

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6 comments on “Joy to the World?

  1. An excellent post, Bill. I have brought Christmas into perspective through a small gathering with my children, an exchange of inexpensive, locally made gifts (such as functional pottery pieces) and no stress.

    To me, it’s the celebration of Love incarnate, which should be quietly recognized and lived every single day.

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  2. shoreacres says:

    I agree with you, of course. But there’s a strange “other side of the coin” that distresses me just as much. There are people who “spiritualize” Christmas so much they give no gifts, send no cards, put up no tree and talk a good bit about how such frippery diminishes the celebration.

    I can’t quite find a way to express my objection to that approach, except to say that while excess is bad, tangible gifts are good. We’re celebrating the Incarnation, after all – the Word made flesh. If the church was doing its job, it would find a way to help people understand the gifts they offer and receive as tokens of the Incarnation. Embedding gifts more deeply into our celebration and understanding them more theologically might actually help with the stresses and strains of the season.

    I really would like to write about this, but I’ve been sitting on the post for two years and still don’t have the clarity I need to do it right. Maybe next year. 😉

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  3. pixilated2 says:

    Agree. With all of it!
    I hadn’t heard that people were wishing that celebration of Christmas would go away. We need to celebrate Christmas, but that isn’t done with credit cards, wrapping paper, and decorations! Sad. It is done with reverence and a grateful heart for the best gift of all… Christ Jesus!

    We share gifts in our home, but they are small fun things, or necessary items, and that is good. ~Lynda

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    • Bill says:

      It is tough (for me at least) not to let all the stuff that frets me this time of year steal the joy out of it. The history of the celebration of Christmas is fascinating. At some point I think we just have to roll with the punches and enjoy things as best we can.

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