“It’s all become so commercial – ’tis the season to be shopping! Over-priced junk, expensive wrapping paper, the same tedious songs on loop, the sheer busy, bothersome stress of the whole thing. What’s happened to Christmas?!”
I hear someone say something like that every year. I’ve heard myself say it! But this year I’ve worked out what I’m going to say in response. I’m going to say (in as cheerful and jolly a way as possible):
Here is why – there is a way of whining about Christmas that makes us sound more like Scrooge than Jesus. Remember Paul’s words “…you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich…Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 8 & 9). Christians who know this will be marked by…
Joy is just the right tone for Christmas: we celebrate the coming of a Saviour. “Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die.” If He hadn’t mildly laid His glory by and been born a man, He couldn’t have died. If He hadn’t died, He couldn’t have risen. If He hadn’t risen, then neither will we. But He did, we will, and so we are merry. Naturally, there’s a need to be gentle and considerate in our merriness – Christmas is difficult and raw for some of us. But sadness doesn’t exclude true Christian joy; it can mingle with it. We all need Jesus to be light in our darkness.
The merry giving of gifts is just the right way to celebrate the giving of the Greatest Gift. God’s heart is the very opposite of Scrooge’s heart – He overflows with loving generosity. When we give gifts, we come close to the very heartbeat of what Christmas is all about. And we’re closer still if, with eyes of love, we see opportunities to give our stuff and our time and ourselves to someone who could really use a big-hearted act of kindness.
When we are wearied by the materialism of Christmas, let’s refuse to retreat into a holier-than-thou aloofness. This is a celebration of the Incarnation – God took on flesh. He came into His creation to redeem it. There is nothing wrong and everything right with gratefully enjoying His stuff. And by stuff, I mean fairy lights, mince pies, presents, party games, mulled wine, Quality Streets (please note), decorations and trees, puddings and turkeys, crackers and Christmas cards. Of course, we all know how to sin with this stuff too, so as someone put it to me recently ‘Don’t drink too much, don’t run up your credit cards, and don’t try to buy friends with presents.’ We’re all capable of using God’s gifts in the wrong way but the truth is we honour Him when we gratefully enjoy what He has given us – especially when we draw others in to enjoy it with us.
So yes, there is an emptiness to the world’s commercial celebration of the ‘festive season’. But let’s not respond with dour tut-tutting! Let’s fill the emptiness with a joyful and generous celebration that has Jesus at the centre.