Let’s Keep Christmas Commercialized

Every year about this time, there rises a hue and cry about the "commercialization" of Christmas, accompanied by impassioned pleas to get back to the "real meaning" of the celebration. Too much time and money, we hear, are spent on the public side of the holiday — the hustle and bustle of shopping, the lavish decorations, and the often insincere displays of seasonal piety. Meanwhile, the true spirit of Christmas gets left behind. Some even argue that all public displays of Christmas are inappropriate.

Every Christmas season seems to spawn a new series of lawsuits charging that the First Amendment is imperiled by the appearance of manger scenes on civic property, or by the singing of carols by the local high school choir. I recall hearing a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union claim that the very message of Christmas itself was being violated by any public recognition of its existence. What we need, he said, is to remove Christmas from public life completely, and allow it to become once again a private, personal expression of religious sentiment and family values.

To him, apparently, the essence of Christmas was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting — a household gathered around a piano drinking hot spiced cider and singing "Here we go a-wassailing," while an apple-cheeked matron, her eyes sparkling with reflected light from the roaring fire in the hearth, loads the festal board with heaping platters of roast beef, steamed vegetables, and candied fruit.

Nothing wrong with that, of course, so far as it goes. It just doesn't go far enough. While it would surely be a mistake to claim that commercialization is the essence of Christmas, such a statement is rather close to the truth. From the very beginning, Christmas was regarded as a public event. It was never regarded as a private matter, still less as the sentimental remembrance of childhood it has become. In its origins, Christmas was not only public, not only commercial — it was downright political.

One of the most well-known scenes of Christmas, commemorated in countless greeting cards and church pageants, is the coming of the Wise Men to honor the baby Jesus.[1] We should note at least in passing the public nature of the occasion. The Wise Men were public figures, and the arrival of their caravan into the capital city of Judea caused a considerable uproar. Far from treating their mission as an issue of private sentiment, they announced that the Child whom they came to worship was none other than the rightful ruler. (A popular rumor held that a coming world emperor would arise in Judea; one Caesar took so seriously he actually made plans to move his capital from Rome to Jerusalem.)

As for the issue of commercialization: it should be obvious that the Wise Men went Christmas shopping. Gold doesn't grow on trees, and frankincense and myrrh require human labor to produce. Merchants have been capitalizing on the holiday since the very first Christmas.

But there's more. For the story of the Wise Men's visit doesn't end with their presentation of gifts. St. Matthew's account goes on to tell of King Herod's jealous rage at this threat to his tyrannical rule (Herod had had several family members murdered, including his own sons, when he perceived them as rivals of his power). Herod realized the political implications of Jesus' birth, and ordered the massacre of all male babies in the vicinity of Bethlehem. As we all know, Herod missed the One he was after; and the story ends instead with the death of Herod and John the Baptizer's proclamation of Jesus as King.

The early Christians were much concerned with the public aspects of the Incarnation. Indeed, they were martyred in droves because they refused to privatize their faith. Even their creeds, proclaiming Jesus Christ as the one and only link between heaven and earth, were far from being abstract theological treatises. That proclamation had a political impact that shattered forever the old pagan pretension that merely human rulers were "divine." Christians and non-Christians alike have benefitted immeasurably from the resulting restraint on governmental tyranny that is unique to Western civilization.

I rejoice in the commercialization of Christmas. It signals the one time in the year when our world approaches sanity. The brightly lit houses, the evergreens garlanded with bulbs, the carols that provide the musical background for even our most hectic shopping — all creation comes alive with the message that the shift from B.C. to A.D. changed the world forever.

Notes:
  1. The Bible does not say how many wise men came to visit Jesus. Also, but the time the wise men find Jesus, he is in a house. []

Comments

comments

  • Pokiehl

    The Mana Goddess is Light, and thus She could not see Herself. She used Her light to outline Herself in shadow. Her visions began the creation of this universe. Everything in the world has a common beginning: Her light. But the desire to know one's self became shadow, and separated us. Do not detest the darkness. That is all you need to know. Words are your powers. The Goddess will speak to you with Her powers. If you know you can handle the power, then proceed.

    • Bobseeks

      Gee, a bona fide pagan nut case. Sorry pokiekl, the mana goddess is just another figment of the mind that is in rebellion to GOD and to follow mana is to follow satan.

    • Sandi

      Are you writing this from Montana? I notice they still have a state hospital system and assume that you are a permanent guest there. God help us if you're on the loose.

    • SEAN MURRY

      You must be smoking some good weed.

  • Knowledge

    One just has to read the Bible to understand Christmas

    Its one thing to celebrate a season and another to celebrate pagan days.
    http://www.ucg.org/holidays-and-holy-days/do-you-...

    Hosea 4: 6 (KJV) My people perish from a lack of knowledge.

    Its one thing to know your Bible, but its an other thing to KNOW the God of the Bible.

    Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, ”The scripture is our inexhaustible textbook, the Lord Jesus our boundless subject and the Holy Spirit our divine infinite helper“.

    When Jesus had gone forty days in the desert fasting and praying. Jesus was hungry and at a weak point. One translation says, “he was faint with hunger “. The Devil, the tempter came to him. The question I put to you dear friends is this, when does the Devil tempts you the most ? Its at your weakest moment, its at your weakest point.

    How did Jesus handle this moment? He brought God into it. He quoted the Bible, God’s word. Each time the Devil tried to trap Jesus, Jesus would respond, ”It is written!”

    Many people are also robbed of blessings that the Bible tells us are ours in Christ Jesus. But because we don’t know it, we never truly live in them?

  • Bobseeks

    Somehow I find it difficult to see how the author can postulate that tieing Christmas to commercialization is good. Perhaps he is just trying (like many Christians) to justify selfishness and greed by misuse of Scripture. Let's face it, Jesus would not by amused by witless bimbos fighting over video games for their children, or neandertal men punching each other over a half-price tv. Sorry, your article doesn't ring true.

    • Ruth Bacon

      Read the article again, particularly the last paragraph. I don't think the writer is talking about commercialism in the same way you are. The Bible does not say Jesus was born on Dec. 25, nor does it specify that we should celebrate his birthday once a year. We remember his birth and death, and worship him, but every day of the year, not just during the "Happy Holiday" season. There are many stories/myths about why we celebrate with a tree, wrapped gifts, candy canes, candles, St. Nick, snowmen(!?). Even people who do not believe in God or the person of Jesus manage to celebrate his birthday. If you truly gave a party and invited the birthday person, Jesus, what would you do? Give him gifts? Probably. Sing carols? Probably. Prepare lots of food? I am sure. Decorate the house? Appropriately, yes. Have some dress up as Santa Claus? Probably not. Encourage everyone to get drunk? I'm afraid not. So, go figure....

  • SEAN MURRY

    Jesus is the guest of honor during this season.

  • Misty

    I love this article. Very well written and the title very well defended. The lights, the colors, the trees, the food, the gifts, the feast. None of this is wrong. And, if this holiday and all of it's trappings is beloved by children then adults should strive to put aside their cynicism and see again what their innocent eyes once adored. Those who detest Christmas feasting must also detest beautiful church buildings. Only in a day and age where we have so much have our church buildings (with the exception of Orthodox and some Catholic) become so plain yet our homes have grown larger and our stash of worldly goods have expanded. Then, folks dumbly question how much Christmas decorating and shopping is good or bad for our souls. It is the balance between prayer and service and the contents of a man's heart that matter the most. In other words, don't judge. Let free people be free.