The Rise of Christmasism

Tis the season for bashing society and all its failings. The Scrooges of the world get more screen time on the news and culture shows and in magazine articles because of the way their greed denies Christmas to those people who most desperately deserve it.

I won't add to that this week. Maybe next, when I've had to travel to the mall for Christmas presents again. Today, I want to talk about something else-- the response to consumerism. I'm going to call it Christmasism.

Christmasism is what happens when people try to escape the focus on material stuff and start looking at Christmas for all the things they can get spiritually out of it. This sounds like a much better way to look at the holiday, but it still misses the point.

Christmas isn't about getting anything at all.

Christmas is about taking the very best thing you have and giving it away.

God didn't get anything at Christmas in Bethlehem. Instead, He took the best thing he had-- Jesus Christ-- and gave him away. So did the shepherds-- the best they had was their time and attention, which they took from their work and gave it to the Christ child.

Please notice that "best" does not automatically mean "most expensive." My car, for example, is the most expensive thing I own. This was not true until a few months ago. When I owned a junker, my computer was the most expensive thing that belonged to me. But neither of these things are the best things I own. In fact, I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of what the best thing is. When I figure it out, though, it will be my mission to give it away.

What if we practiced Christmas this way? What if we challenged our students to find their best and give it away this year to celebrate Jesus' birth? It would turn our Christmas practices from reactions to the world's festival to actions leading toward discipleship.

And "giving away" does not mean "giving up" either, the way we talk about doing at Lent. Just the other night, a parent said to me that Advent, the weeks leading up to Christmas, was a season of quiet penitence. And had I been paying more attention, I would have objected to that remark, because Advent is about expectation and watchfulness, with light and music and joy. "Giving away" can be a one-time permanent giveaway or it can be an ongoing daily goal.

"Don't forget your gift," Paul tells Timothy. "Practice it out in public." In other words, take the best you have and give it away to build up the church.

I think we can say this doesn't even mean physically giving an object to another person. In a Timothy sense, practicing our gifts in the church gives ourselves away.

What if Christmas, to us, weren't about objects and possessions at all?

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