Oh Holy Night of Retail Sales

Nativity Scene at Night A couple days after Black Friday, I ventured out to the stores with my family for some reconnaissance of the shopping scene. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle I spied a lady entering Petco with a large German Shepherd on a leash. The dog was incredibly well behaved. He walked calmly beside his master and sat patiently when she stopped to look at items on the shelf. When I take my fell beasts to Petco, the experience is not so pleasant: there is lots of lunging against the leash, piddling on the floor, and growling at other customers. And my dogs are ill-mannered, as well.

Anyhow, this time of year we get the annual bemoaning of how commercialized Christmas has become in our society. Granted, it nauseates me to see WalMart erecting Christmas displays before I’ve purchased candy for Halloween. How far ahead on the calendar can stores go when peddling their Christmas wares? Can they start on Labor Day? How about Independence Day? I’m not a prognosticator, but within my lifetime I expect to see store Christmas displays on the 4th of July. Uncle Sam and Saint Nick in bed together with big retail would make a most unholy union. But I digress.

It’s easy to decry the commercialization of Christmas. Why? Because the commercialization of Christmas is indeed taking the sacred and turning it into something well beneath its dignity. Most Christians instinctively know this. Yet here in America we seem especially susceptible to commercialization of sacred things. On the other hand, it is unlikely that we would have the same high quality of living were it not for retail commercialization. We can stick our nose in the air about the commercialization of Christmas, but the truth is commercialization and consumerism affords us with toys and essentials such as our iPads, smart phones, movies, music, thousands of food items in grocery stores, a comfy bed, a solid roof over our heads, and the indispensable tushie warmers in the seats of our cars. Without commercialization and consumerism, we’d be slaving away on a subsistence farm or we’d be forced to join a group of hunter-gatherers trying to eke out an existence in the wilderness.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, consumer spending comprised 71% of the U.S. economy in 2013. A large chunk of that spending happens at Christmas time. Can a society continue forever to base its economic foundation so heavily on consumerism? I doubt it. But I haven’t heard of any viable alternatives to date. My point is that we can focus on divine and sacred things at Christmas without letting the commercialization aspect become anything other than a tool or a means to an end. The gifts the Magi brought to the Christ Child were beautiful, representative of sacred things, and practical. Those gifts likely helped fund Christ’s family for a period of time when they were refugees in Egypt. The Magi likely had to purchase or trade for those gifts in a market SOMEWHERE. Granted, not ALL gifts we give and receive at Christmas need to be purely practical. Even at age 58 I don’t want socks or underwear for Christmas. But beauty and/or practicality can be found amidst the commercialization if we choose our gifts wisely and avoid buying (or making) gifts devoid of creativity or lacking any usefulness. I understand that not everyone can afford to give fancy gifts from Nordstrom’s or Tiffany’s (me included . . . though my wife will be so disappointed), but everyone has something precious to give, even if it is simply time and friendship. Commercialization need not corrupt our Christmas as long as we remember that we give our gifts as a symbol of the gift of Salvation that Christ brought to the world.

So, it’s ok to go out and shop and it is ok to put one of those cheesy blow-up Santa’s in your front yard (as long as you don’t live on my street). Just don’t forget to keep the nativity scene front and center of it all.

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Posted on December 15, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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