by Laraine L. Thompson
In recent years there have been numerous articles written by numerous writers about the materialism, often crass indeed, that has sadly become Christmas. The pressure upon families to provide a “decent Christmas” can be unbearable at times often leading to delinquent debt, not to even mention debilitating disappointment.
In Unplug the Christmas Machine, authors Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staehli have this to say:
“The Christmas Machine has this power over us because it knows how to woo us; it speaks to the deepest, profoundest, and most sacred desires of the human heart. If it appeared as a monster, we would rise up and stop it. But the commercial messages of Christmas appear as promises that bring tears to our eyes. Look at the bounty we are promised by the December magazines and the glowing Christmas commercials: Our families will be together and happy…Our children will be well-behaved and grateful…Our wives will be beautiful and nurturing…Our husbands will be kind, generous, and appreciative…We will have enough money…We will have enough time…We will have fun…We will be warm…We will be safe…We will be truly loved. No wonder we stop, we listen, and we want to believe. The problem comes when we buy into the notion that what we long for can be procured by the buying and selling of goods….[we believe] that if we buy and receive more Christmas presents our inner lives will be fuller, and we will finally be safe [and satisfied] in the world.”
We as parents are all too familiar with the wooing power of this machine! We may vow—each year—to not fall prey to its allure. We may vow to spend less each year. Some of us succeed. Too many of us fail. The Christmas Sirens call and we answer and follow their call, yet again, and even reluctantly. We are left without enough time, having no fun, not feeling safe, deeper in debt, and most of all perhaps, not feeling loved. Not exactly the legacy we wish to bequeath to our children nor the example we want them to emulate.
Perhaps we would do well to ask ourselves and our children as well, “Whose birthday is it anyway?” Hopefully, acting upon the obvious answer to that question will direct our actions in a more positive, rewarding direction. Each member of the family has their own birthday each year. Anticipate those and celebrate them with delight and gusto—gratitude for the birth and life of each individual. But for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, let us temper our urges as He would truly advocate.
He of course was born in a lowly stable. Angels, not Sirens, heralded His arrival, but not all heard their song, and there was only the quiet visit of the shepherds that marked the occasion. They brought only their adoration and wonder. Wise Men brought costly gifts later, but even those gifts were mere tokens of the riches that the world had to offer.
If Jesus were on our Christmas list, what would we decide to give Him? More importantly, what would He want? A huge new flat screen TV? A Wii? A pair of skis? A new car? The latest trend in clothing? Would He be disappointed if our homes were not impeccably decorated in all the latest styles for the season? Would He be sad that we didn’t have the most lavish meals and parties to celebrate His birth? These are such ludicrous questions and the answers are embarrassingly obvious. Knowing what we know , why do we persist in behaviors that are not truly in keeping with the occasion.
Let us take stock of our goals, our notions of appropriate celebration, our expectations. Let us commit to celebrating His birthday the way He would want us to celebrate it. Each of us must decide how that is best done. Undoubtedly, it would be spending more time, not money on one another. It would be seeing to the needs of the poor “…every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” In the following verse of the same scripture, the Lord, tempering His command, advises us to “…see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.” Mosiah 4: 26-27. He might have added, “…or spend more money than he has………..”
Clear and simple are His commands. Humble and obedient can be our responses.
Photo source: LDS Media Library