Saturday, December 22, 2007

IN RESPONSE: "You hate Christmas."

In my response to a friend's post entitled "Why I like Black Friday" another friend commented, "you hate christmas." I imagined his tone of voice and the comments that may have followed in conversation such as, "I mean... you really hate Christmas" or "I mean... you really hate Christmas. What did Christmas even do to you? Did it punch you in the face? Would it not get off your shed when you asked it to? I mean... you hate Christmas."
I laughed hysterically when I read his comment. I later asked myself, "Do I hate Christmas?" Hate is such a hateful word.
There are some elements of Christmas that I do loathe. Some obvious examples are:

  • The paired colors of bright red and kelly green.
  • Inflatable snow globes that function as yard ornamentation.
  • Strands of lights that burn out on the tacky, artificial evergreen tree that sits in the corner of the room.
  • The commercial exploitation of Jesus.
My disenchantment with the popular American celebration of Christmas does not exist because of what it did to me but rather what it does to others. We waste our time, money, and resources to fulfill our desires for high-definition home entertainment, designer clothing, and other personally selected gods and goddesses. Is Jesus really honored by our consumption that pays homage to stuff, devalues simplicity, and oppresses others who do not have the wealth and resources that the rich (as an American I am a part of this class) hoard for themselves.
There are some elements of Christmas that I value:
  • Spending more time with family.
  • Intense reflection on God coming to earth as a man.
  • Reconnecting with friends.
  • Giving to those who have need for food and child care.
So to answer the question, "Do you hate Christmas?" I must respond, "No... but my heart breaks at the consumerism that is the supposed celebration of Jesus' life on earth." I imagine if I were a man in Africa dying of AIDS whose wife could not feed herself or our child and I was asked, "Do you hate Christmas?" then I would respond, "It depends on how you celebrate it."


peterkevinson said...

While I may not hate Christmas, I'm definitely not a big fan of the season. Almost everything about the month of December sits wrong with me, with the exception of a few parties that I really enjoy and the snow we sometimes get. To be honest, I don't even like the way we adopt families for the holidays and give them all sorts of gifts. The worst part is that I usually can't ariticulate why I don't like all of this stuff, it's usually just a gut feeling that says something about this doesn't make me feel to good.

While the water4christmas idea may have been ok, maybe the time for it wasn't yet. Maybe we should come at in from a different angle next year.

peterkevinson said...

Though one year for Christmas my stocking was filled with a whole bunch of pieces of paper. On them was written. "Instead of a present for Kevin, one was purchased for ______." Mandy went and bought presents for a bunch of kids in our neighborhood who probably wouldn't have got much and delivered them annoynimously on Christmas Eve. I think that was the best present I ever received.

Dave said...

Maybe the reason that you hate Christmas is due to the extreme lack of sleep that you must be getting by posting blogs at 4AM!!! The only thing I may not hate at that time would be sleep. However, I do believe that consumerism is a very self-centered evil in some, but not all circumstances. Maybe the line of consumerism is drawn when that which is being consumed reaches godlike status. Thankfully God redeemed me from my 1984 nintendo and the worshipful daze of super mario bros. I have found that while I do sometimes enjoy the benefits of consuming I can echo with the book of Ecc. by saying, "There is nothing new under the sun." I'm glad to see the things you love about Christmas and I hope that you and your family enjoy an extravagant day in the light and love of our Savior.

Matt Frye said...

yea i am extremely torn on this issue. mainly because i am convicted of the way that i live during the holiday season. i posted about this very same issue a week ago, but yet i still find myself buying people things for christmas because it's "what you're supposed to do". that's why i think that christmas is in a crisis right now and unless there is a revolution of change, christmas may be lost eventually (if it's not already). that's why i say why not move christmas. i wrote that in my post too. and what i mean by move it, is simply, change the date. call the christian calandar people and tell them our situation. i mean, i'm sure that they will understand. i think that having a holiday season in december can still be ok, as long as we don't call it something that jesus accepts and is welcomed. but now we can move advent to august or something. and that way we can really focus on the reincarnation. i know that there are tons of issues with this. most people will just say things like moving christmas won't change consumerism, it's just hiding from it. i understand that. but at the beginning of this post i already said that i am extremely torn about this issue. i guess i'll just need some time to mourn my selfishness and embrace the coming of christ.

Adam said...

here's the thing. you (general) are not going to change the consumer mindset of the general public, black friday, traffic (which is definitely not as bad in mt. vernon as it is here in atlanta, boy!), political correctness, green and red, vicious aggressive approach taken by relailers, etc. but if you want to fight selfishness and consumerism, go give something to somebody who can't (or won't) give anything to you in return. prove it.

kevin, i love that idea you shared about your wife buying gifts for the kids in your neighborhood. nice. somebody actually did that for us this year, in a way. my wife and i weren't going to be able to get gifts for each other, until somebody anonymously dropped off a gift card on my desk at my office. we used that card to do a good chunk of our christmas shopping. (and i am immensely enjoying saving the world daily in my new video game...)

it's been said that we end up buying for people just because it's what you're supposed to do. well here's a couple of thoughts: 1) if you're getting something for someone whom you don't really want to give to, rethink your relationship with this person. 2) if there's a season of the year that reminds us to think of other people and give them gifts that we otherwise wouldn't give, then i pretty much think that's okay.

i don't like the bright red and green, either, travis.

Anonymous said...

I was shopping in Micheal's yesterday because my Mom love's when I make stuff for her. I probably walked around for a half an hour without a single idea. The funny thing is I have had so many good ideas all year, but instead of just going and doing it every time I have the idea, I make the excuse, "That would make an excellent Christmas gift, I should save that Idea." Now I find myself so rushed because I have all this other stuff to do now that I am home and our house is falling apart and what I would love to get for my Mom is a maid or a husband that could take care of her, so she doesn't have to do three full time jobs as a mom a dad and a full time employee of PetSmart.

So I thought, what If I just made my Mom gifts every time I thought of her and a good idea, and didn't wait and out it off. What if we all did that. What if we did the same for when we thought of meeting people's needs. I think Christmas does a whole lot more harm than we know.

The intense commercialization of the social Gospel movement I see firsthand, when every store asks you if you want to donate a 1$ to some cancer foundation or a nearby hospital.

I think of all the times I have passed people on the side of the highway who need help or need a ride, and after I pass them I immediately think of all the things I have done for people before, making it OK. This idea that we can redeem ourselves is a whole new theology that can rule us. It's ok if I do this because I give to ...

Maybe it's the American way. It's ok if we drop bombs on real people because we are going to build back their country and make them a democracy like us. We justify EVERYTHING and NEVER expect consequences for anything because it was never wrong, we righted it.

Maybe I go on rants, but I'm listening to Rage against the machine right now, so I'm easily excited.

Anonymous said...

no sir, you.

ryan said...

I watched Christmas vacation today. You like this movie, therefore you like Christmas.

Anonymous said...

After working in retail for two successive "holiday seasons", I find my self effectively immunized against much of my former comsumeristic gift-giving/requesting. It's hard to stomach how cash I touched today as people hurriedly searched for the perfect tiny electronic hunk of packaged happiness that they could buy for their loved ones. I think in many cases, the people that I'm serving are well-intentioned, but like myself, simply conditioned and well-marketed into thinking that this is just what we as good Americans

So in the midst of all the consumer chaos, I know I can't change these people's buying trends, so instead I attempt to inject as much genuine care and "presentness" into my interactions with the hundreds of people I'm talking to each day, hoping to at least shine a bit of light into an increasingly deary and disconnected holiday.

Anonymous said...

There was a section on 60 minutes tonight about Joel Osteen and his Church, it was pretty good. I thought the reporter asked a Lot of good questions and made the interview very interesting. It started a cool discussion with my Grandparents about our home Church that they attend regularly and was extremely edifying to relate with my grandparents for the first time about theological issues.

boldham said...

I can deal with consumerism. I don't even mind the "Happy Holidays" thing. I just hate what we have done to the story of Jesus' birth. Somewhere amid "Little Drummer Boy" and "Good Christian Men Rejoice," we lose the edge on what actually happened. 1) This was a scandal. An unmarried girl who claims her prgenancy is God's fault, a young man who chooses to marry her anyway, relatives who would not let them in, scummy shepherds visited by angels, Babylonian star-gazers bringing gifts, etc.; 2) We were not there. It was a nondescript night, special to and remembered by few. In hindsight it was holy but it was hindsight just the same. We can't go back and put ourselves into the celebration, we can only revel in the fact that it was reserved for the poor, the rejected, the foreigner, and the outcast; 3) We divorce birth from life. Do we celebrate any other birthday - Washington, Lincoln, MLK, etc. - by concentrating on the birth? No, we celebrate the great accomplishments during the life of the person born on that day. The significance of the way Jesus was born---manger et al---is that it so typified the way he lived his life. Into our poverty the riches of God's grace have born.

So this year don't forget the real story. I think if we celebrate that, the other problems (like consumerism) will take care of themselves.

Thomas said...

Travis...I shared these exact feeling with my wife (Jaclyn) just a few days ago. We decided not to buy anything for each other this year. In fact, she had already bought me something and we took it back to the store yesterday. I love Christmas for what it is and what it does and I hate Christmas for what people make it. The thing is Christmas stands on its own. Its message is unchangable yet people, who can't handle being faced with the truth, like to change it. I love Christmas for much of the same reasons you love, focus on Christ, the nostalgia, the increases sense of selflessness. But what I hate about Christmas is how Satan perverts it through the culture. Why do I have to buy something for someone to demonstrate what God did for us just to keep up with the Joneses? Why can't I just give them my time? Why can't I give them the gospel? Why can't I give them my heart? You'll notice in the gospel narrative that after the wise men gave Jesus the three gifts, we never hear of those gifts again. In fact I wouldn't doubt that Mary and Joseph probably sold them so that they could continue to survive. No one knows of course. But the point of Christmas is lost on the gifts. The one thing I do like about Christmas is that Jesus's name and story is spread across the world through the media. As a friend of mine said, Christmas is the only time when the world is singing our songs. That is what we can look forward and that is what we can take advantage of. It just too bad that on the day after Christmas everything reverts back to not paying attention to Christ.

Mike said...

I got your High Definition entertainment right here bud!!!

-Steb- said...

Wow you know I think that Boldham actually had a really good thought on this issue. Should we focus on the unsightly symptoms (consumerism, materialism ect.) Or should we focus on the cause, being that of the general amnesia of the Real Christ behind the season???????

Bruce thats a very interesting question......

Matthew 5:38-48, NASB

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone want to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only you brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."