The Christmas season, I must be honest, is a time of year when I find myself deeply conflicted. On the one hand, it is the celebration of the single most astounding and incomparable act in all of human history: the incarnation of God the Son. God becomes flesh and dwells with humanity. According to John 1:1-4, the creation steps into the creation, the eternal steps into the temporal, and the light steps into the darkness. This is a marvelous truth worthy of our unending attention and reflection. Christmas is a time of focus on the most important person who ever walked the earth, the One who conquers death and rules the universe. Christmas is indeed an important time, and is worthy of a time dedicated to it celebration.
On the other hand, I am nauseated by the materialism that has, in reality, become the greater emphasis of the Christmas season in this country. Retailers and businesses rely on the Christmas season for turning profits. Americans rack up credit card debt they spend the rest of the year paying off in order to purchase gifts for family and friends. And despite the fact that most in churches are committed to the message of the incarnation and the birth of Christ as the “reason for the season,” most of this, unfortunately, is rhetoric. Our actions betray us as we spend billions corporately on stuff. The sacred is made secular.
I’m not against buying presents and giving. My family gives gifts as most everybody does. We look for opportunities to give to those who are without during this season. I’m just against buying into the cultural mandate to spend exorbitant sums of money on gifts to feed our greed and materialistic impulses so as to diminish the true purpose of our celebration.
So what do we do about it? Well, here are a couple of thoughts. They are not meant to wow, they are hardly innovative. But we’ve got to start somewhere and these are a few good ways, I believe, to move us in the right direction.
First: STOP BUYING SO MUCH. Told you it wasn’t all that creative! But this one is so important. Nothing communicates our conformity to a worldly view toward Christmas than making it about presents and things. Parents undermine a commitment to Jesus as the focus of the Christmas season when they spend exhorbitant amounts of money on gifts. They are teaching their children, whether they realize it or not. Learning how to give and receive is a valuable thing to learn, and Christmas time is a wonderful time to teach this. Giving and receiving gifts should be practiced, but I think we should be more cautious than we are regarding its place in our celebration of Christmas. The financial debt accrued during the Christmas season is also an atrocious lack of biblical stewardship. It enslaves us throughout the year and does not permit further giving to the church and the work of the kingdom, both during the Christmas season and throughout the year.
Second: develop some yearly traditions that are not related to presents. This may involve service toward those who have needs, meeting the needs of those who may be without, or even certain ways to serve or give to one another within the family. These kinds of traditions will be remembered by kids, make no mistake. And they will set their focus on healthier things for their future regarding the Christmas season.
Third: Speaking as a good Southern Baptist (who believes in being a Southern Baptist), value the opportunity to invest in missions. Obviously missions giving is something we do year-round, but during the Christmas season, with the Lottie Moon offering, missions becomes focal. Lottie Moon offering supplies nearly fifty percent of the annual budget for the International Mission Board. Lottie Moon is the critical to Southern Baptist’s missional commitment financially. The opportunity to invest in it is of immense value during Christmas.
Fourth: Enjoy the egg nog. It’s only around for a couple months.
Let us be committed to distinctiveness and biblical faithfulness during Christmas. How immensely important our witness is during this time of year. Awareness and thoughtfulness are critical. Let us display this kind of thoughtfulness in how we approach the Christmas season.