The Real War On Christmas

Christmas and Consumerism

Consumerism: the real war on Christmas

“Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” – Jesus (Luke 12:15)

A reporter from California contacted us last week. He is doing a story on Christians resisting the rampant Consumerism that so dominates our celebration of Christmas here in America. I’m no expert but he found our website in the search engines where we have talked about Christmas and Consumerism in past years. He asked me why I thought there was not more of an outcry from Christian leaders against Consumerism in Christmas. He pointed out that most of what he has heard about are Christians taking a stand against “the war on Christmas“.

Even though I’m not one to think there is any real hope for winning a culture war, I do understand how the increasing secularization of our society is pushing expressions of Christian faith, especially around Christmas, to the cultural fringes. But this seems irrelevant to me when expressions of our faith in Jesus are often relegated to the edges of our busy personal lives. I believe the real war on Christmas is often being waged in our own hearts. The rush of the holiday season and the blinding speed of shopping and often obligatory gift giving too easily leads us astray into a kind of stress-filled flurry and mindless consumption. In the whirlwind of busyness we barrel past Bethlehem on the way to the Mall.

On the phone, I told the reporter that we are not against mindful gift giving – in fact it is a joy! – blessing one another with gifts is not the problem. The problem arises when we commit our devotion to things rather than devotion to GOD and one another. I told him, many of us feel like Charlie Brown in his classic Christmas TV special where he bemoans the commercialization of the holiday and is earnestly seeking ‘the true meaning of Christmas’ – which in Charlie Brown’s case is again brought to the forefront by Linus as he retells the story of the birth of Jesus and in the end is reconciled to his community as they sing carols under the stars.

Another example of this commercialization is a conversation my wife remembers overhearing in a store a year or two ago. Two women were talking. One women was asking why the other had so many large tin containers of popcorn. Her shopping cart was full. The other women told her it was ‘just in case’ people showed up unexpectedly at her house – a kind of gift insurance to save social capital. The women, who was asking the questions, promptly saw the wisdom in this stockpiling and proceeded to anxiously fill her cart too.

This Christmas season my prayer is that we would find ourselves like the Magi, laying our treasures at the feet of the One True King, and that we could not only resist the idols of Consumerism but go on to behold the LORD in a fresh way – a revelation born anew – and that our hearts would be led into worship.

What are your thoughts on Christmas and Consumerism? Why do you think many Christians are not more concerned about Consumerism during the Christmas season? Or is the reporter wrong? Are more and more Christians waking up to the reality that we can’t serve both GOD and Riches? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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7 Comments

  1. I have wanted to write a book with the title of this post for a long time. My theory is that consumerism is actually the global religion (and major idolatry) of our day. So, Christmas/Advent is when these two religions actually most explicitly go head to head. I want to unpack how the legends surrounding St. Nicholas were transformed into the god of the consumer religion in Coca-Cola’s version of Santa Claus. Look at all the faith language used in Christmas movies, not around anything to do with Christianity, but instead the myths surrounding what I call the High Holy Days of the consumer religion which now include Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Oops i forgot Tuesday and on until Christmas when we all bow down before the gifts we have gone into so much debt to ensure the gods are satisfied.

    Reply
    • Lucas: This idea of Consumerism as the primary spirituality of the globe is worth exploring because it seems we are unaware of it’s influence in the Church. I totally agree that Christmas is the pinnacle yearly expression of this pseudo-religion too. Maybe we should get a bunch of people together to write about Consumerism vs the Kingdom of GOD and compile it into an ebook or PDF download or something. -shalom bro!

      Reply
      • A collaboration might be a better idea, because I don’t have time to write the whole book, but I could do a chapter on the History of Santa or something.

        Reply
        • Maybe we could explore this in 2013 to be ready for the next holiday season. I am also trying to organize a writers network and a better online forum for ST – We really want to feature more voices here but I’m picky about what gets featured – I need to lay out a vision for what we are looking for. I also have considered creating a multi-site WordPress install that could feature a group of bloggers like Patheos does.

          Reply
  2. Christmas is a super disappointment to me as a Christian who is against the destruction of the enviornment. I see the Malls as the new temples of the age, in fact it seems every religious holiday can now be purchased.

    Reply
  3. I see so many people including the Christian church, being swept up in consumerism and all the other distractions of Christmas. I used to LOVE finding just the right gift for my friends and family but one year I decided that enough was enough. Christmas is about Jesus so we put all the focus on Him, not the gifts. We don’t exchange gifts, we don’t even have a tree, just a simple nativity and other gospel focused decorations so that we can be present in the true spirit of Christmas. Ever since we rethought our Christmas traditions, they are wonderful. We get to go to church services, help others, ‘living Bethlehem’ events during Christmas time with none of the rush and stress of buying things. Great article!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the reply Nicole. It sounds like you’all have radically shifted the way you engage with the Christmas season. I’d love to hear more about how you arrived at these practices – shoot us a note if you have time: sustainabletraditions [[[[a t]]]] g m a i l [[[c o m]]]

      Reply

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