It’s that time of year again: advertising season. I have always interpreted the 30 or so days beginning with Thanksgiving and culminating in Christmas as “the holidays.” But a disturbing trend has been evident in recent history: beginning around October 1stand carrying over into the New Year, retailers have bombarded America with advertisements, sales, and window displays. As someone once told me, Black Friday is getting more attention than Thanksgiving these days and J.C. Penney’s is more prominent than J.C., Savior.
This frenzied materialism is merely the visible effect of a deeper reality. In rejecting the tradition of Thanksgiving and Christmas as spiritually centered, family and faith-oriented holidays, Americans have taken a dangerous path. As people move towards atheistic materialism, they have to try to find fulfillment in stuff: stuff that breaks, stuff that gets stolen, and stuff cannot provide ultimate peace.
Christians are called to be different, called to find our peace and fulfillment in God. Yet the temptation to follow the culture in its mad pursuit of “stuff” can be tempting, particularly in this advertising season.
Don’t give in. Instead, let’s figure out how to “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” (to quote the old slogan).
Let’s commit to reducing the amount of focus and money that we put towards material gifts for ourselves and our families. Our goal should be that expressed by Paul in 1 Timothy 6:8: “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Anything above that is God’s grace and cause for thankfulness. It is not that we should not give gifts, but that we should not make those gifts the focus of our hope for contentment and peace.
Another way to combat the spirit of this age at holiday time is to reuse family and Christian traditions that may have fallen out of practice. Find an advent book to go through every night with your family, take a quiet walk reflecting on God’s provision for you, think back to growing up and what practices made the holidays meaningful to you: do those things again. These kinds of non-materialistic traditions can move our focus from stuff to Christ.
If recycling is taking something old and used up and giving it new life, we should think about how we can recycle even the “non-spiritual” aspects of the holidays. For example, instead of a mad frenzy of paper-tearing Christmas morning, consider having each family member take turns opening one gift at a time, thanking the giver as they do so. Invite someone who may not have a place to go for the holidays to participate with you. Maybe you could simply pray before any family gathering, asking God to grant peace and thanking Him for the gift of His Son.
Don’t let the culture dictate your experience this season: seek to create a culture in your home, in your church, and in your community that honors Christ as King.
If “reducing, reusing, and recycling” your Christmas helps, go for it.