Commercial Christmas

I’ve been getting pounds and pounds of catalogs in the mail these days advertising everything from Christmas trees to fuzzy socks and fake rocks. My email is flooded with ads urging me to “beat the rush” and snatch up various merchandise currently offered at unbeatable deals. Of course, all these deals are “the lowest price of the season.”

I also receive daily emails from the American Family Association. Many of these emails are a sincere effort to mobilize Christians to stand up for Christ in today’s culture. They organize boycotts against companies that advertise in “alternative lifestyle” magazines and websites. I salute the organization for its stand on many issues.

One of AFA’s drives is an effort to make sure that businesses and organizations in America do not take the word “Christmas” out of holiday celebrations. They rallied their supporters to contact Home Depot after it was discovered that their company website mentioned “holidays” and “Hanukkah” but not “Christmas.” After receiving many phone calls and emails from AFA supporters, Home Depot released this statement:

…The Home Depot has not censored Christmas. The Home Depot has and will continue to include the word “Christmas” in a variety of communication efforts, including advertising, store banners, our Web site and point of purchase displays near such items as Christmas trees.

We also use the word “holiday” in our outreach to customers, as many of our store displays and other marketing efforts cover more than one holiday from Thanksgiving to New Year’s and stay in place throughout the entire holiday season from November through January.

With that said, we are adjusting our Web site to make “Christmas” more prominent and to make our site more aligned with our advertising and point-of-sale in-store signage. Customers will start seeing the adjustments later this week.

AFA was pleased with this change in policy and encouraged its supporters to contact Home Depot to thank them for their willingness to keep “Christmas” on their website and in their stores.

As I read the statement from Home Depot, I began to squirm. A thought popped into my head:

Why should Christians care whether or not the word ‘Christmas’ is used in advertising and other promotional materials?

I’ve been pondering this thought for several weeks now, turning it over in my mind. The answer I’ve concluded goes against the mainstream Christian culture, but I believe that is because the mainstream Christian culture has bought into a fake Christmas hook, line and sinker.

Think about it. Why is it that we Christians who actually “own” the meaning of Christmas allow the mainstream American “Buy More” culture to permeate our celebrations? Many well-meaning Christians go into debt in order to buy bigger and better stuff for their children, for their families, and for their friends. In fact, Americans spend $450,000,000,000 (that’s $450 Billion!) on Christmas every single year.

Say what?

450 Billion Big Ones is spent in America every single year on Christmas. Don’t get me wrong…we celebrate Christmas with our credit cards just as much — or more — as the Jones’ next door. And last year during the holiday season I ended up with a three-month-long headache that was the result of stress and anxiety. It struck me the other day that Jesus does not want us to be so preoccupied with the “stuff” of the season. The real “stuff” that he is interested in has to do with putting our treasure in heaven.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
Romans 12

If I take those verses from Romans 12 and apply them to my life during the Christmas season, I see that I have completely and totally copied the behavior and customs of this world. I have bought the lie…the lie that says that the more money you spend on your kids, the more they will know how much you love them. I have swallowed the lie that tells me that my family won’t know I love them unless I spend oodles of cash on them buying stuff that they don’t really need. Somehow I have allowed myself to link LOVE with STUFF…and that is ridiculous.

Think about it.

What does a carpet display at Home Depot have to do with Jesus? He walked on unpaved, dusty roads and undoubtedly had dirty feet! He wasn’t exactly born in the Ritz but in a stable filled with musty, earthy animal scents. Mary didn’t dress him in purple robes from BabyGap but in swaddling cloths (although I’m sure she probably would have if she’d been able!).

How on earth have we Christians come to equate presents under the tree with the person of Jesus Christ? Take a look at these advertising slogans and see how many of them you know by heart. How many of them do you know better than you know God’s word?

  • Don’t leave home without it. (American Express)
  • Reach out and touch someone. (AT&T)
  • The ultimate driving machine. (BMW)
  • The King of beers. (Bud)
  • Have it your way. (Burger King)
  • M’m M’m good. (Campbell’s soup)
  • Cooks who know trust….(Crisco)
  • It keeps going, and going, and going… (Energizer)
  • Quality is Job 1 (Ford)
  • Because you’re worth it (L’oreal)
  • Just do it (Nike)
  • The un-cola (Seven-up)
  • Who wears short shorts? (Nair)

My favorite ornament is a “gift” that my daughter made for us several years ago. It is hand-made out of typing paper to resemble a child’s version of a present. On the inside of the present is one word: Jesus. We place this present under the tree every year. That is what I’m focusing on this Christmas: getting back to the heart of the season, which is gratitude to God for giving me the ultimate gift in Christ.

I’m not trying to be Scrooge here. I am honestly seeking to understand why I’ve bought into the lies — and I am horrified to think of what my actions are teaching my daughter about what it is that I really treasure.

That’s why I’m joining the Advent Conspiracy.

I will do my best to give Presence, not just presents that are here today and tomorrow are forgotten.

In the coming days, I will post some non-gift ideas for ways to celebrate the special Christmas season or ways to celebrate by spending money on those who have nothing. The first idea is this:

Coupon Book

This gift has been a favorite of my daughter’s each year that I have done it…and on the few years I haven’t made the time to make it, she’s asked where it was! The coupon books contains coupons for my time or for special events. Some items have included:

  • Eat dessert first (this was a favorite one!)
  • Skip a shower
  • Picnic with mom in the park
  • Mommy manicure
  • Ice cream scoop at Baskin Robbins
  • Skip a school assignment in our homeschool

The coupons are redeemed at any time during the year. I have several of each item, and she can use them whenever she wants. I’ve found that she likes to keep them saved up for special occasions.

This year I plan to make a coupon book for her…but I also will make one for my husband (with different coupons, of course!)

As He often does, God is conspiring all sorts of things to lead my mind in this direction. I first heard of The Advent Conspiracy on a friend’s Facebook page, and somehow it stuck in my brain. Several weeks later I checked into it and WOW! I felt as if that sword of the spirit was smiting me all the way to my marrow. Then this weekend my husband downloaded an album from a group I’d never heard of before called Monk and Neagle – and I heard this song:

Whereas last year I would have cared very much that Home Depot or Target or JC Penny or Macy’s omitted the word “Christmas” from their holiday circulars…God is working on me, people. I can honestly say today that I.don’t.care. In fact, I would rather see Christ REMOVED from the holiday spending orgy because the xBox 360 and the latest and greatest computer do not reflect the person of Jesus Christ. Those things are of THIS world and are slowly but surely stripping away all that is holy about the miracle of Christmas. I don’t want to pass by the truly needy for the twenty-first time in my rush to buy the Next Big Thing.

I am definitely still a work in progress, and so is this topic. Stay tuned for more…

2 thoughts on “Commercial Christmas

  1. Please let me share with you an AC idea. It’s a gift for my wife and everyone else too… It’s a compilation of open letters from mothers to mothers. I will present it to my wife (and all the contributors) on Christmas day.

    For a run-down on my gift (and to contribute), visit http://www.motherletter.blogspot.com. There is also a place for other conspirators to share what they are doing and who they intend to help this year.

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