Christmas craziness is back. Ok, so maybe it never went away. However, as we emerge from financial doldrums as a country, the shopping center parking lots are full again. I don’t know if this means people are buying more or more people are buying less, but regardless of the bottom line commerce is flowing.
It could just be my imagination, but it also appears merchants are talking a lot more about Christmas. I have never understood why the ones who actually created Christmas as we know it would want to do otherwise. Why would store owners downplay the motif that puts them in the black?
Please don’t think I am portraying the commercial side of Christmas as a machine that only seeks to exploit Jesus and His followers. Yes, this occurs. But some of the store owners who wish me a Merry Christmas truly love the Lord, and look for ways to let Him shine through them in the midst of our buying frenzy.
I simply wish to point out there are pros and cons to the ebb and flow of the great American Christmas. On the down side, there are those who want to diminish the place of Christmas in our culture. In so doing, they hope to drive the message of Jesus out of the mainstream and redefine the manger as a religious relic that belongs to a marginalized sub-group. On the other hand, when Christmas excels as a holiday, we worry the message of Jesus is getting lost in the tinsel and trim.
On the positive side, the suggested “war on Christmas” forces those of us who follow Jesus to assess why we celebrate, and to reflect on why we feel threatened by the decisions businesses make. And, of course, when Christmas is in vogue, we have more opportunities to celebrate.
The jury is out in my mind as to whether the commercial success of Christmas is a good thing or a bad thing for the kingdom. Yet, I think I know where the answer lies.
Commerce, like many things in our culture, is just a backdrop. God’s people are versatile, especially when it comes to Christmas. Anyone can celebrate Christmas, regardless of geographic location, financial status, or political circumstance. Perhaps you have heard stories of political prisoners who found a way to remember Jesus’ birth without inciting their captors. On the other end of the spectrum, Busch Gardens Williamsburg recently had to close its gates when their park reached capacity and roads leading to the entrance were gridlocked.
Ultimately, it isn’t the environment that determines whether or not we are celebrating Christmas as we should. Instead, the hope of Christ at Christmas resides in our hearts. Our joy will find a means of expression regardless of our circumstances or opportunities.
I want to encourage you to guard your heart against the ups and downs of Christmas. While I understand we are frustrated when people take away our traditions in the name of political correctness, this should not lead us to despair. What matters most is the love of Jesus that pours out of our lives on a daily basis, now and throughout the year. When our heart is right, Christ is seen, and Christmas is honored.
This is the goal, after all. We want Christ to be seen. If commercialism draws attention to the season, it can be a good thing. But if we, as the Lord’s people allow the season to replace the Savior that is a bad thing.
For now, be careful out there. Christmas is back!
Jesus, save us from our own success.