Friday, December 04, 2009

Don't be so dang Scroogey!

When I first became a Christian, I used to get all defensive about Christmas. You know, "the reason for the season" and all that. Much like those people over at Stand for Christmas. They get their panties in a twist if some store doesn't make enough reference to Christmas (as opposed to "holiday") in their advertising, etc.

Well, that's post-Christendom for you, folks. It's pretty well a settled fact in the northeast, and I'm guessing major urban areas elsewhere. The very last town with a creche in its public square will be Grovers Corners . . . oh wait, that was a Hollywood movie set! I forgot.

Anyway, there are still parts of the U.S. where they put up Ten Commandments billboards on the roadsides, as I discovered driving through Ohio on I-70 last week. Even so, Christendom is waning there too, I suspect. The fight to keep Christmas in store decorations and advertising is especially silly, I think, because it reinforces the notion that store-environments are central to the way we understand and "keep" Christmas. Wait a minute . . . store environments and advertising ARE central to the way we keep Christmas! I almost forgot . . .

I heard someone say that because of money-issues his family is not going to have a very good Christmas. Having a good Christmas is all about getting lots of stuff, right? Christmas without a month-long spending frenzy would be so sad! After it's all over, you're kids' friends will eagerly ask one another, "What did you get?" See, just like any kid, our definition of a "good" Christmas is wretchedly materialistic, and we do not want to talk about changing that. Don't be so dang Scroogey!

You can wear all the "reason for the season" buttons you want, but most Christians I know keep a pre-dominantly secularized Christmas with a Creche in the front yard to emphasize that our hearts are in the right place even despite the conspicuous over-consumption.

Ebenezer Scrooge famously said, "You keep Christmas your way, and I'll keep Christmas mine." If you want to do something healthy for the Christian holiday known as Christmas, you might start by severing your celebration of the birth of Jesus from the consumerist impulse altogether. Buying nothing for Christmas is a good way to start.

Update: 11 Ways to Avoid the Seduction of Consumerism This Christmas
Update 2: Rant: Not "Standing" for Christmas
[HT to Jesus Creed for both these links.]


dle said...

Actually, where I live (the aforementioned Ohio), the backlash against the secularization of Christmas has actually turned the tide. People are not saying "Happy Holidays" as much as they are saying "Merry Christmas."

And actually, I think that's great. Even if it does little more than play into some of the schemes of the American Civil Religion, I still believe it got people thinking about what we are losing by this general dumbing down of everything. If that inclines the hearts of even a handful of people toward the Lord, it's worth it.

Now the argument against is that it seems to involve a ridiculous amount of showmanship on the part of those calling attention to it, but that doesn't obscure the fact that when enough people choose to resist the slide by a simple act of saying "Merry Christmas," good things can still happen.

We should not be surprised when the world wants to go the wrong way. But each of us has a choice not to go with that flow. So don't sign up to boycott stores, but do say "Merry Christmas."

Anonymous said...

i can see where there is a holiday event about santa and his sleigh and his giving of presents.

then on the same date we celebrate the birth of JesusChrist.

add the winter solstice, and hanukkah and december gets to be a very confusing month!

it would be a good month to find a warm beach on which to sit and read a few books and not come home until january.

well, that aint gonna happen this i want to give some gifts, gather with family,
and be very thankful that Jesus was born.

i usually wrap gifts with inside out grocery bags or with material for those that sew...i also like gift bags left over from the year before. i have even used the newspaper comics.

Bob said...

There's actually much about the "secular" Christmas that I love. The thing is, even though we call it Christmas, it's still more secular than not in the practice (and the mental associations) of many. Dan, the 10 Commandments signs in Ohio might prompt lots of mental associations to a typical Bible Belter that would simply not occur to a typical young Bostonian, say. So also the word Christmas. I say Merry Christmas when I know the person I'm talking to is celebrating a holiday by that name. I have no presumption however that they're celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Nancy, I like your traditions. I think families should make their own traditions that attempt to de-emphasize "stuff under the tree" as the focal point of the holiday. My opinion, anyway. Not that I don't love giving and receiving gifts!

Spherical said...

I love the post and the idea. But it is more than just the idea of how we treat Christmas that must change if the church is to flourish. It is about how we treat Jesus everyday of our lives.

Bob said...

Spherical, you are so right. The whole issue of whether we call Christmas by its proper name in store advertising misses a much more important point. "Stand for Christmas" is a Focus on the Family project. Would that they spent more time teaching how families can dethrone consumerism in their own lives rather than challenging stores that only use the tern "holiday" and never "Christmas." What a colossal misapplication of energy!