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Avoiding Consumerism at Christmas

Receiving gifts is fun. Watching others receive gifts we have planned and given is more fun!

My wife and I can recall many times when our children were younger, people would ask them what they wanted for Christmas or what they wanted Santa to bring them. The most common response from our children was a blank and wondering stare. Our children knew about Christmas gifts and Santa Claus, so when we first noticed this phenomenon, we wondered. Then we realized that our children did not think about Christmas as a time of getting what you want.

Even today, though our children now better understand what the question is about and how to answer it, they still often pause and stumble at giving a response.

We never have asked our children what they want for Christmas. We rather have asked them what they might get or do for others. We wish we could say that this approach was part of our wise, grand plan for child rearing, but it came only as a result of our own understanding of Christmas and, more importantly, our desires for our children.

For some reason, adults often seem to want to emphasize to children the wanting and receiving aspects of Christmas. Doing so is comprehensible for toymakers and electronics companies but not for Christians.

For some reason, adults often seem to want to emphasize to children the wanting and receiving aspects of Christmas. Doing so is comprehensible for toymakers and electronics companies but not for Christians. Christianity is about dying to self and wants and about giving myself for others.

Christmas in America is commercialized. We cannot avoid that, but we can work to prevent commercialism’s deleterious effects on our souls and on our families. Jesus taught that we cannot love both God and riches (Mt. 6:24). Neither can we love both God and the things money can buy, including the feelings of pride we get giving expensive gifts to others. Here are three ideas that can help us avoid the effects of commercialism and keep humility before God in the fore.

  • First, make Christmas about Christ more than the gifts. Talk about why we give in every conversation that turns to gifts, even conversations with other adults, whether in the workplace or in passing. With younger children, plan a birthday cake for Jesus to focus thinking on Him. Find a planned, formal way to focus your home each day in December on Jesus, His birth, and the ultimate purpose for it. Give a dollar to missions before you spend two dollars on gifts. Give time at a shelter. Give away the Gospel that Christmas represents.
  • Second, budget for gifts. Spend only what you have—no debt for Christmas. If you have debt, make a big part of Christmas the joy of paying even a little of it off. The fruit of the Spirit includes self-control (Gal. 5:23). To buy gifts on credit means to spend what you have do not have, that which God has not provided. To avoid that requires self-control.
  • Third, celebrate homemade gifts. Help your children plan what they can make for others. Little undermines commercialism like investing my own time and skill on behalf of others. Make it your passion to enjoy and to elevate the creative work of someone’s hands above the purchase of someone’s money.

Receiving is fun. Giving is even better. The best is honoring Christ, submitting to where God has me financially today, and celebrating human creativity as a marker of His image in our lives.

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Waylan Owens

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