Materialism at Christmas (not your usual rant)
It seems that every year “Christ” gets taken out of Christmas more and more. The world’s attempts to secularize this Holy holiday can be discouraging. Retailers view Christmas in dollar signs, the “politically correct” refer to the advent season as “the holidays,” and in the hearts and minds of many people, Santa Clause has replaced Jesus as the preeminent symbol of the season.
During my lifetime I have known Christian families who have taken a stand against this commercialism by refusing to celebrate Christmas at all. They do not get a Christmas tree or decorate their homes. They do not give gifts to their children, or allow gift exchanging to take place in their families. Essentially they treat Christmas the same as every other day of the year. This quiet opposition to the worldliness of Christmas is sometimes intended to somehow reverse the trend of materialism. While I would not doubt the conviction that these families feel, I would like to present an alternative view to the idea of outrage at materialism. The basis of my philosophy comes from the scripture verse John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” In this verse we see that the spirit of God took on a material form. As pastor Douglas Wilson put it, “For the apostles, and for all faithful Christians since, the Incarnation means that ultimate Truth has a birthday, and a mom, and ten fingers, and a liver.” God, in his mercy gave us a physical, tangible form of himself; someone we could relate to and understand.
At Christmas time, instead of feeling guilty for enjoying the material aspects of Christmas, we should look at them as the physical forms of the spiritual concept. Here is a story that illustrates my point: “After a long, tiring day of shopping, Jim and Sue came upon the gift they had been looking for. There was one particular bicycle that their son, Bobby, had wanted. Now, at last, they found what must have been the only one still available. It was a Ranger Racer, complete with all kinds of shiny gadgets and sparkling features. Quickly, they latched on to the bike and started pushing through the store to the check out area. Unexpectedly, Jim stopped, looked at Sue, and said, ‘What are we teaching our son about the real meaning of Christmas?’ A couple of weeks later, Bobby woke up extra early on Christmas morning, ran downstairs, and woke the whole household with shouts of joy over his discovery of something special near the Christmas tree. Bobby was grasping not just the handlebars of a new bicycle, but something greater—the meaning of Christmas. The Advent of Jesus Christ is the most materialistic, the most physical, the most worldly message of the Bible. The Word, who we know is Jesus Christ, became flesh. He became human, a person, a baby, flesh and blood; yes, a real, live, crying, eating, sleeping baby boy. For a period of some thirty plus years, God the Son lived here on planet earth. John says that he and his friends beheld Jesus’ glory. Like Bobby squealing with delight over a new bicycle, the disciples experienced the excitement of standing next to Jesus, eating lunch with Jesus, sitting at a lesson listening to Jesus, and watching Jesus teach, preach, and perform miracles.
Jesus is the ultimate Christmas gift. But the gift of Christ is not something that we can put into a holy box labeled “Spiritual.” Rather, a flesh and blood Christ came into this physical world to save us in the here and now, as well as in eternity. His coming here on earth in the flesh gives us the greatest of reasons to truly enjoy all the physical gifts of God, including bicycles.” Pastor Ben House, Grace Covenant Church, Texarkana, Arkansas
This is not a season that celebrates vague spiritualities, but rather the season that celebrates God taking on flesh. The instinct to give gifts, to eat chocolate, to cut down a tree in the woods to bring it home, is therefore all very healthy and in line with the holiday. Matter enables us to give, and not just to grab.