Monday, November 10, 2008

What is Christmas?

I just heard a Q-talk by Chris Seay on consumerism.  I have been feeling this for a while now, and have mentioned it a couple times but not gotten supportive response.  I am overwhelmed thinking this right now.  Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ - at least for Christ-followers it is supposed to be that.  It celebrates the beginning of a life that was lived out differently, in stark contrast to the pop-culture of His day.  His was a way of caring, grace, peace, generosity, love, and holiness.  Christmas is a celebration of the beginning of THAT LIFE.  

But what is our usual habit of "celebrating" Christmas?  We spend hundreds (some spend thousands) of dollars buying ourselves and each other things we do not need.  Exactly how does that celebrate the life of Christ?  I'm not sure it does.  There will inevitably be the person (or maybe everyone) out there that will tell me the tie in for the gifts and Jesus and will justify it in light of this discussion.  But justify this: a child dies every 15 minutes simply because they don't have clean water, yet we spend $600 giving our kid a room full of toys.  

What I'm getting at here is not that it is wrong to give gifts.  I am ALL for giving meaningful gifts that come from our God-given talents and abilities (things like baked goods, poems, photographs, and the many other things we can do and create).  Even smaller gifts, like a book or a journal - something someone really needs, that's ok too.  But this addictive consumerism that takes over us and we buy and buy and buy and we are constantly taking inventory of how much stuff we've bought compared to how much we think someone else will buy for us, cause we can't look like the cheapskate - THIS HAS TO GO.  What about that process celebrates Christ?  

Here's a radical idea.  What if we narrowed down our gift giving to one or two meaningful, from the heart, gifts and took the rest of the money we were going to spend and sent it to the Rwanda Clean Water Program so kids could get clean water and stop dying.  Or there are tons of other ideas out there in which we can use our money (which we have a ridiculous abundance of - just look at your Christmas bills if you think I'm wrong) and use it for the good of those who are not as blessed as we are.  Your family could sponsor a child, or buy mosquito nets to help prevent malaria, or decide to buy gifts only from a website that is fair trade, send Operation Christmas Child boxes, or many other things.  Isn't this more of an actual celebration of the life of Jesus than just consuming?  

If my suggestions make you mad - and you're mad at the idea that we do away with the huge spending on piles of gifts, I urge you to prayerfully and Scripturally consider your habits.  I challenge each of us to choose habits this Christmas that honor the life of Christ, instead of choosing ones that ignore it.  Read the Gospels and tell me what Jesus would think of our Christmas.  All the money we throw away each December - that money can be STOPPING problems in other parts of the world.  It's your choice.

2 comments:

dansahd said...

Jeremy:

Your thoughts on Christmas consumerism are RIGHT ON. I wonder how many people out there consider giving gifts during Christmas to be their big "good deed" for the year? I always found it funny that someone would call simply buying a gift a good deed. Sure, occasionally a gift can fulfill a critical need or might be a symbol of love or respect, but the Bible is clear that deeds are true outward signs of devotion, often taking more effort or requiring more sacrifice than one is used to. James says that faith without works is dead. So, if someone's "deed" is to buy a $19.99 gift, wrap it up with all the fixin's and slap on a greeting card, is that what their faith is worth? What about those that try to "out-spend" others in their family or cirlce of friends? I think many of us have missed the point.

I also find shame in the fact that so many people feel "obligated" to give gifts, and then reluctantly buy something just to build up resentment later. That seems like a pointless game of superficiality.

One final thought...I wonder if there is a correlation between the relative amount that people spend during the holidays to that which they tithe to the church throughout the year. Any thoughts on that relationship?

Jeremy Keegan said...

Trying to out-spend - you hit the nail on the head. That is so prevalent, yet why? What does it prove? Thinking about your last point, I haven't read much on that. From my own experience, I can say that even when I was tithing regularly, the Christmas Spend still was present in my life. The thing we have changed within the last couple months is going on a budget, which provides accountability for all our money. We tithe 10%, save 10%, pay the bills, get a little cash in our pockets, and then with what's left over, we give it away (to ministries we are familiar with, or people who need it more than us). Now that our mindset has changed to be more generous, this issue is glaring to me. So, I would say probably people who give generously all year are less likely to fall prey to the spending tendencies during Christmas, but that has NO research behind it. I'm just thinking just because you tithe doesn't mean you are generous, but those who are probably see things differently all the time. I had thought about this before for a couple years, but never been so convicted of it until we began to view our finances differently. Good to hear from you! We miss you guys! Take care,