The tree is glittering in the living room, gifts are wrapped perfectly underneath it, and stockings are sitting on the mantle stuffed with treats and toys. This appears to be the perfect picture of Christmas. But there’s something there which dictates the way we view and treat the Christmas season. The “isms” of consumerism and materialism seep in and corrupt our view of Christmas.
Even if one recognizes these influences as bad, how could one possibly begin to counter them? When you’re being pushed from all sides to give in to consumerism and materialism and buy all these “new” and “trendy” gifts, how do you put a stop to it and say no?
There is no clear answer to this dilemma. However, the principles that we use in our Lazarus at the Gate program can serve as guidelines for how to counter the “isms” that have infected our Christmas season.
First, live gratefully. The reason for the Christmas season is not the gifts and grandeur. It is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and the redeeming work of the cross. So instead of focusing too much on the material aspects we have added to the season, it is important to understand the greater meaning and remain grateful for the gift of salvation. Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection is the ultimate gift. No material gift we could give would ever surmount the eternal significance of our salvation. Therefore, as you journey through this beautiful time of year, remember this ultimate gift, and live in an attitude of gratitude.
Second, live justly. Gifts, decorations, food, are all part of the Christmas season and it is unrealistic to completely avoid them. If one is to purchase these things, what is the best way to do so? By living justly, and looking at the complete sphere of influence of a purchase, we can all make better choices when deciding on what gifts to give or what food to bring to a party. There are so many people that are affected by each item that is consumed. Additionally, material goods can have a negative impact on the environment. So, when you go to buy a Christmas gift, before giving into the dual forces of consumerism and materialism, ask yourself some questions. What is the most sustainable purchase I can make for other people and the environment? Will this purchase or particular gift bring about injustice and inequality in the world? Is this gift something that will promote biblical justice in the world? By asking these questions and seeking to live justly through our purchases, we can counteract the “isms.”
Third, live simply. While this is a huge lifestyle shift, it is an important principle to help counter the tendencies of the “isms.” Before we buy the trendiest Christmas decoration that will go out of style by next season and overspend on gifts that will inevitably be thrown out or forgotten about, we should consider the significance of these items. Do we really need them? While gifts are good and fun, we should be conscious of what we are buying, that these items will bring value to our lives, not just serve as an impulse buy facilitated by the “isms.” By choosing to live simply, we can counter the tendencies of our materialistic world and in turn, be better Christians and stewards of God’s creation.
While there is no quick fix to consumerism and materialism, my prayer is that by living out the principles of gratitude, justice, and simplicity, we all can make more conscious choices and focus on the greater meaning of the Christmas season.