“Commercialism” is a buzzword with a negative connotation, accused of stealing sincerity from the Christmas season. Big box chains and online retailers see the benefit of Christmas tradition in their bottom line, each year creeping further back into our Thanksgiving celebrations. The marketed rush of “have to haves” brings out a less endearing side of humanity, but no quest to cash in can take “Christ” out of Christmas.
“Commerce” defines the exchange of goods and services. Humanity has evolved from paying with chunks of precious metal to transferring funds online, and bartering the craftsmanship of our own talents has taken a back seat to free 2-day shipping. God is not surprised by the world-wide shift in commerce. Nothing He created or purposed can slip out of His omnipotent reach. Every commercialized push for Christmas lends an opportunity to elevate the gospel of Christ.
1. Big Business Does Not Have the Power to Trump God.
“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21
Past the accusatory view we cast on others in light of this verse from the Gospel of Luke, is the pull to God through our desire for the “have to haves.” Eventually, we all come to the end of our humanity in realization that no product, house, job, friendship, or relationship can satisfy us. Christmas is the whole point of life. Without Christ’s birth in the manger, we have no Savior on the cross or way into heaven.
Only Jesus can sustain the peaceful calm that quiets our innate urge to accumulate possessions and earn money. His name cannot be removed from the holiday marking His birth on earth any more than He can be removed from life, itself. For John reminds us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1) Every Christmas-themed advertisement, rush to accumulate gifts and check-off lists, lends the opportunity to welcome the Savior of the world to take up residence in our hearts. The earth is designed to spin on the axis God put it on.
2. Churches are Filled with Christmas Visitors
Churches are crowded on Christmas. Services are added and plans are made to welcome first time guests and visitors. One may think they are making a casual, unnoticed appearance annually, but every butt that normally occupies a weekly seat sees. The curiosity to know why “Christ” is in Christmas pulls people in. The infamous story from the Gospel of Luke is every bit as magical and majestic as humanity hopes it to be. The telling of Jesus’ coming lingers throughout the entire Old Testament, both in 350 prophesies and lessons that would not be revealed in context until the New Testament fulfillment began.
“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:8-14
The powerful pull of the Gospel isn’t man-made or marketed by evangelists. It is the living and breathing power of our almighty God that sends it out to the corners of the earth, and each musty space in the minds of man. Crowded Christmas services prove that we are drawn to Him by design.
3. Generosity Abounds
“ For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11 (NASB)
Jesus refers to this verse in Matthew 26:11, when He said, “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.” This links the unquestionably expounded generosity during the Christmas season to the reason we are drawn to be generous in the first place. Jesus is to be first and foremost in our lives, because our generosity flows from and glorifies Him.
Created in the image of a generous God, we are bent to lavishly love the way we have been loved. Before we are privy to this enlightenment, greed will try it’s hand in motivating us to hold onto our wealth, and justify turning our backs towards those in need. There is a very real enemy among us, kicking and screaming as he goes down. He will do all He can to pluck the nerve of unfairness and entitlement that places blame on those in dire straights. In a season that is all about Jesus, giving increases. We give, because we’ve received.
4. Giving Gifts Points Us to Our Greatest Gift
Christmas is the seasons of lists. Events to attend, parties to plan, and gifts to get. Even Santa has a list that he checks twice. Far beyond the guy in the red suit, is our Father in heaven Who knows every name. Thinking of other people is a shift from our automated human setting. Getting a gift for someone requires that we know a little bit about them, their life, and their needs.
As our travel and trace our list of those that God has placed in our lives, our thoughts drift to who they are.
“Look at them fly. It looks like God is taking pretty good care of them doesn’t it/. Remember that you are more precious to God than birds!” Luke 12:24
God knows our needs without seeking them out or waiting until they present themselves. He has gone before us and knows what we need. God meets all of our needs without the searching and seeking that we exert in our efforts to find the perfect gift. The habit of taking our focus off of ourselves and laying it upon others reminds us that God never takes His eyes off of us. (Luke 12:6-7)
“My little flock, don’t be afraid. God is you Father, and your Father’s great joy is to give you His Kingdom.” Luke 12:32
5. Cards that Keep Us in Touch with Loved Ones
The more digital our society becomes, the less Christmas cards I receive. Or so I assume, until I send mine. Then, the cards start coming back to me, and then some. This is the Christmas spirit, isn’t it? We think that it is a thing of the past, that our society has grown away from traditions and into a cold-hearted and commercialized way of life. Maybe we’re not checking the mailbox on the tree lawn as much as we used to, but we are scrolling our feeds and opening email minute by minute.
Technology proves that we do have time for each other based upon how much of our time we spend there. Whether we spark the chain of passing Christmas cards by snail mail, or tag everyone we love in a digital greeting, Christmas cheer is on the move. We were made to connect with each other, because of the joy it gives us! Our Father wants a relationship with us. Jesus came to earth to be with us, experience human life that added to His compassion for us, and to save us from the death sin warrants to be with us for eternity! We are relational because our God is relational! Reach out and greet someone this Christmas, to bring glory to the One who connects us all.
6. Twinkle Lights to Remind Us of the Light of the World
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12 (NASB)
Jesus always knew His audience. He never wasted a word. Yes, He was talking about Christmas lights, but they weren’t called that in Biblical times. The streets were illuminated at night for festivals, in particular for the Festival of Dedication (Hanukkah) and the Feast of the Tabernacles in celebration of Israel’s deliverance and the rededication of the temple. (NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.)
The brightness at night highlighted positivity, and Jesus made a point in this statement to take what they knew about light and expound upon it. He was the light of the world, standing amongst them. That meant a great deal in a society with many traditional teachings; and also to the uneducated, who could easily understand how light brightens the darkness.
We drive to Christmas light displays and Christmas light festivals. The natural wonder and marvel of light in a dark place is lodged so deeply within our hearts that we unknowingly seek it out. Our hearts reflect His light.
7. Traditions Connect Us to the People and Place God has Called Us
The hallmark moments that fill our hearts with joy carry traditions on through generations. A native Clevelander, I remember Higbees, as in the movie, “A Christmas Story.” The store windows of Higbees were magically decorated with scenes of Christmas, and the sides of the tall buildings adorned Christmas light displays. Cleveland has relit Public Square, and the storefront windows of the new casino adorn the old decorations. Listening to my children gawk over the beauty of it reminded me of my childhood. A memory passed down, and a history lesson on where we are from.
Christmas brings people together and memories to life. The lives we live reflect who we are. Just as we look back and feel the nostalgia from our past, we can see the steps of Jesus next to ours. In the stress of life, we forget that we are connected to the people that share our lineage for a reason. We fail to recognize blessings in front of us because we rush down the road. In addition to the commercialized traditions we embrace from our past, as Christians we pass on the story of the baby that brought hope and joy into the world.
8. Enjoy the Time Off from Work and School as a Gift from God
The world we live in is more rushed than every before. We operate on the same 24 hours that humanity has thrived on since the start of time, yet each day seems to run faster than the last. We are hyper aware of this during the Christmas season, which is packed with a lot of extra doing to do.
Give the extra time off of work and school careful consideration before letting it run out and away from us. Be present with family instead of just being there. Christmas is a chance to be a gift to someone who needs the encouragement of our company. Though society doesn’t shut down completely anymore, and there are some of us that will work on Christmas Day, the holiday pulls us away for a moment to stop and celebrate.
We often think that we can manage our time, when in reality giving our time to God is the best way to manage it. This holiday season, seek to honor Him by setting the first minutes of our days aside for Him. The Creator of time can stretch ours, if we’ll give it to Him and cooperate with His guidance. When we carve out time to be together with family and friends around the holidays, we express gratitude for the blessings He’s riddled our lives with. We will never fully appreciate things we don’t take the time to notice.
9. Enjoy the Fact that We have a National Holiday Dedicated to Celebrating Jesus
Santa’s everywhere shouting “Merry Christmas!” and the aisles of every store are littered with merchandise pointing the holiday’s arrival on our calendars. Radio stations that play Christmas carols non-stop remind us of the why we celebrate, and even if we don’t listen to them they are stuck there since our childhood! Christmas themed movies and Christmas books. Advent calendars and Christmas countdowns. Everything that commercialism has attempted to kidnap from the meaning of the holiday rolls up into one big reminder of why we celebrate it in the first place.
Only God can take an attempt to capitalize off of Christmas and turn it into reminder that Christ is at the center of it all. The fact that the shepherds were out in the fields the night Christ was born tells us that the weather was probably warm. The Romans are most likely responsible for the placement of the day on our calendar in December. But regardless of what we do and add to the story, the center of the holiday’s namesake rings true in every overcrowded church come Christmas Eve. There is a love for celebration that God placed in us that trumps any attempt to cheapen the day Grace came down to earth.
10. Social Media Gives Us a Platform to Share the Miracle of Christmas
Social media gets a bad rap when it comes to commercialism. There are now adorning every platform that was originally purposed for keeping in touch. Pop-ups, false profiles, and even fake new stories litter our screens and beg our fingers to swipe and see. Christmas is all over social media. From t-shirts to projects and trips to home improvements. Gift ideas and gifts to add to our list of wants. How do we keep it all in check as we scroll on?
God permeates humanity, above and beyond what we can imagine or comprehend. Reach out through social channels to answer questions about why we celebrate Christmas, who Christ is, and to lend encouragement in a season overrun with anxiety. I believe social media is a gift and an opportunity to reach out. We can embrace a hurt soul without being introduced, knowing their story, or feeling their pain. Even knowing their name. The commercialism abounding on social media allows us to shed light in dark places. Especially at Christmastime.
Meg encourages others to seek Him first through her life as a stay-at-home mom, career as a freelance writer, teaching Emoti-moms Weekly Bible Study, and leading the kids worship teams at her local church. She resides in a small, Northern lake town with her husband of ten years, two daughters, and their Golden-doodle. Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, http://sunnyand80.org.
Originally published Monday, 11 December 2017.