Can you appreciate this cartoon of Dennis the Menace? He rushes into the room, with his mother standing there with her mouth open and he says, holding a big box in his hand, “We’d better tell Santa Claus to forget about the train set I asked for. I just found one on the top shelf of Dad’s closet!”
A recent survey indicated that more people are bothered by the commercialization of Christmas than by the display of religious symbols in public places.
The commercialization of Christmas is part of our society in which consumption for its own sake – regardless of need – is legitimized and encouraged. Without reluctance, advertisers tap into peoples’ religious beliefs and deep emotions at the same time we are being persuaded to buy. Talk about exploitation. While it may be good for the economy in the short run, commercialized Christmas also has its costs. For example, many people experience depression when Christmas does not deliver the happiness that advertising hype promises. And what about that nagging feeling of ‘being used’ as a willing participant in the annual holiday cash-cow? After we have scurried around like the well-trained consumers we are, we’re left feeling exhausted and in debt, promising ourselves next year we will exit this freeway and take a slower pace. What does all of this do to your heart? All of it robs Christmas of its power to renew the human spirit. Perhaps the greatest cost of commercialization at Christmas is paid by the poor. In our society, the poor experience Christmas as a cruel hoax. The creed of Santa Claus theology is the well-known song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. According to this creed, Santa is omniscient; like God, Santa knows all about us. There is also a day of judgment. It comes once a year when “good” children are rewarded with good things, while the “bad” (i.e., the poor) get nothing. The truth is, of course, that gifts are not distributed based on who has been “good or bad” or “naughty or nice,” but on what people can afford or get credit to buy. The damaging message is, volume and quality of gifts at Christmastime determines your worth.
True Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The gospel of Luke records the announcement of Jesus birth to shepherds by angels: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…” Jesus is God’s (Christmas) gift to everyone. Whether rich or poor, naughty or nice. This Christmastime unwrap some salvation, receive joy, get off the freeway and be at peace.
Tim Hall is pastor of Quesnel’s Victory Way Church.