I know you’ve all been waiting for this moment…And, I would really hate to disappoint you. So, here it is…the post where I will get on my soapbox about the Christmas season. No, I’m not going to write about “keeping Christ in Christmas”. That whole “war on Christmas” agenda is a ridiculous waste of time. It’s a great adventure in missing the point. I mean, seriously, you get offended when the cashier at Walmart says, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas?” Get over it. I am more offended by the fact that you are shopping at Walmart. Okay, I’m already getting off topic…sort of.
Instead, this will be about how, in this materialistic consumer-driven society, we have lost the deeper meaning of Christmas. Christmas is supposed to be about hope…faith…joy…peace. Christmas is about the beginning of a new Way…one that leads to life, full life.
At our church, we’ve been talking about how “Christmas is not about me” and how true joy comes when we get our hands “wet and dirty” serving others. It’s our effort to remind people that Christmas isn’t supposed to be the chaotic, stress-filled, busy, expensive event we have turned it into.
Yes, we are guilty of replacing hope, faith, joy, and peace with the exchange of extravagant material goods that push some into greater debt. But, don’t worry. It’s all good because the government will thank you for doing your part in “stimulating the economy.”
It all starts on Black Friday (if not earlier) with people camping out to save $50 on an off-brand flat screen television that will probably stop working shortly after the warranty expires. And, it will end shortly after the “after Christmas” sales have ended and you’ve spent the last of your Christmas cash and gift cards. I’m convinced that the folks at Kohl’s are hoping your mom will buy that ugly sweater…knowing you’ll be forced to come in to make an exchange and find yourself unable to resist the amazing “after Christmas” deals.
So, we buy things for family and friends in an attempt to let them know that we care…to do our part to bring a little bit of joy into their lives. However, that joy is often short-lived. Kids play with the boxes instead of playing with the $100 doll that was inside that box. Siblings try on that sweater only to find that it is too big, too little, or has some kind of weird stain on it. Uncle Joe has too much to drink and calls Grandma a name so offensive you had to look it up on dictionary.com just to make sure it means what you think it means. And, the joy is quickly sucked out of the room.
Remember how Lexus used to try and convince us that the “perfect Christmas gift” would be a new Lexus with a red ribbon in the driveway? This year, our friends at Mercedes-Benz have taken it to a whole new level. Mercedes is playing off that idea, trying to convince us that we deserve the “perfect vehicle that’s just right for you…no matter what list your on.” That’s right folks, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been naughty or nice, Santa (and most likely, the sweet little baby Jesus) wants you to have a brand new Mercedes-Benz.
And, that would be awesome…until you realize that while your spouse just gave you a Benz for Christmas, you still have to make the payments, get insurance, fill up the tank, and worry about where you park at Walmart.
Don’t get me wrong…I love seeing the excitement in my daughter’s eyes as they open their gifts on Christmas morning. But, at the same time, I wonder what exactly am I teaching my children? And, that’s where Eric Cartman comes in.
I’ve always thought that Matt Stone and Trey Parker are brilliant. They have figured out how to take a poorly and oddly animated cartoon and turn it into a huge success. Not only that, I give them credit for being equal opportunity offenders. They don’t just poke fun of particular groups of people…ALL people groups are fair game.
The brilliance of Stone and Parker, while offensive, is their ability to remind us that we all need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. We need to learn to laugh at ourselves from time to time. And, let’s be honest, when we are offended by South Park, it’s generally because the subject matter hits a little too close to home and sheds light in those dark areas we wish they would avoid.
Remember Cartman’s Christian boy band, poking fun at the Christian music industry? Yep, a little too close to home.
Well, the other night, while driving home from a friend’s house, Eric Cartman’s (South Park) version of “O Holy Night” came on the radio. I laughed. I also found Cartman’s version of the tune to be all too real.
Cartman sings, “Jesus was born and so I get presents.”
In the church, we talk about Christmas being about the birth of Christ. We talk about how Christmas is about God coming to earth, in human form, to bring about a better way, to make eternal life a very real possibility. It’s about Jesus…the guy who was all about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the orphaned, widowed, and sick, liberating the oppressed, and all that jazz.
And so, we celebrate the birth of the Great Liberator, the friend of sinners, the Prince of Peace by spending way too much money on gifts that no one truly needs…and many times it’s stuff we don’t even want.
We have been convinced that the best way to honor Jesus isn’t to give ourselves away in serving others. No, the best way to honor Jesus at Christmas is to stretch our finances as far as we can without losing the house and car. Do we hope that our children will love us more or be better behaved if we get them the perfect gift?
I get sucked into the materialistic side of Christmas too. My Christmas list is fairly short. A Harley Davidson motorcycle. A Rickenbacker 360. A Taylor 614ce. That’s it. That’s all I want. And guess what? No one who will be buying me a gift for Christmas is going to spend that kind of money on me this year…or any year. And, I wouldn’t want them to. Well, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t stop them!
So, while listening to Cartman sing, I was convicted. Yep, I am just like Eric Cartman. I want to thank Jesus for being born…because I get presents to celebrate His birth.
This year, to combat the materialistic, consumer-driven nature of Christmas we took our girls shopping for children in need. We bought a few fun things. But, we mostly bought the bare necessities that many children go without. We talked about how we really have been blessed and that we have a responsibility to be a blessing to others.
So, if you’re one of those people thinking about buying me something for Christmas…unless it’s something on my list, I’d prefer that you use that money to honor Jesus. Make a donation to Mission Guatemala. Give towards the Kids Against Hunger event on January 21st. Do something that will make someone else’s life a little bit easier.