December 19th, 2007 15:48 EST
Christmas and Commercialism
The Rev. Dr. Paul Irwin, President of the American Bible Society, submits the following for publication:
Christmas and Commercialism
The Rev. Dr. Paul Irwin, President, American Bible Society
It seems as if Christmas arrives earlier and earlier each year and many people I know keep talking about how the glory of Christmas is eroded by rampant commercialism and materialism. Not long after the Halloween candy is eaten, the sounds of Jingle Bell Rock start to invade department stores and the "happy holidays" greetings begin to be heard.
It seems as if the Christ Child lost the battle over the meaning of Christmas long ago to the retailers who urge all of us to buy that special "something" for someone. As they keep saying, "remember that Christmas is for giving." Their message is "buy."
Theaters, each year, have another movie about a dysfunctional family observing Christmas together. A neighborhood sushi restaurant will feature a Jingle Bell roll with raw fish and something red and green on it. And towns across America will have the annual bickering over public displays of nativity scenes and Christmas trees.
The secularization of Christmas is almost complete in our society. The music played glorifies reindeer, even one with a shiny nose, followed by something about the baby in Bethlehem, followed by a tribute to Frosty, a ditty about three kings and then memories of snow at Christmas or the smell of roasting chestnuts.
But there is one place where the real meaning of Christmas hasn`t changed: in our churches. There, worshipers sing Silent Night holding candles, hear of the nativity from the Bible and offer simple prayers of joy and thanksgiving. Churches observe the actual meaning of Christmas: the birth of the One who will redeem our lives and set us free to spread peace on earth and good will toward others.
In the Christmas season, church is the place to find reverence and spiritual meaning. It`s the one place to escape worrying about what to buy, other than providing a poinsettia in memory of someone we love.
In church we are reminded that Jesus is the reason for the season. Christmas tells us of God`s mighty and everlasting love.
As for giving, I like to give gifts in honor of people or provide acts of kindness rather than yet another sweater that someone wants to pass along to someone else. We can make donations to special charities that help others in the name of those we love and revere. These kinds of gifts fulfill the mandate to give unto others as we have received.
Let me tell you a story about Christmas giving. In Medieval times there was a charming legend that on Christmas the Christ Child wandered throughout the world looking for places where He would be welcomed. Those who loved Him, hoping He would find their homes, placed lighted candles in their windows to invite Him in.
No one knew what He would look like when He came. He might be a beggar. He might be someone who was lost. He might be a poor and lonely child. So the devout welcomed all into their homes who knocked. To turn anyone away might have meant rejecting the Christ Child.
At Christmas we remember that the Christ Child is wandering our roads and highways, our streets and avenues, riding the bus or other public transportation looking for homes where He will be given warmth and shelter.
May the gifts we give honor God`s gift of Jesus to us as recorded in the Gospels. Such gifts are beyond price and are the perfect antidote for the commercialization of Christmas. And, I pray, may our Savior find a place in our homes where there is room for Him.
Founded in 1816 and headquartered in New York City, the mission of the American Bible Society is to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so that all people may experience its life-changing message. The American Bible Society Web site is www.Bibles.com.