Monday, December 1, 2008

Redefining Christmas

Do modern Christmas celebrations bother you at all? Do you even think about it?

As a Christian (and having worked in retail), to say I’m a little irritated over what’s happened to the celebration of Jesus’ birth would be an understatement. It bothers me a lot!

Often I find myself wondering, “What does Jesus think about all the hoopla and spending on HIS birthday?” After all it is his birthday. We should care what he thinks—right?

A week or so ago I began hearing radio ads suggesting we redefine Christmas. I thought, “What’s up with that?” The ad listed a web site, so I did a little digging.

It turns out the radio ad is part of a $2 million national ad campaign sponsored by Connecticut billionaire, Ray Dalio. His goal? For Americans to give to others in need at Christmas.

Dalio’s idea is simple. He suggests giving to charities in the name of people on your gift list.

Matt Dalio, spokesman for Dalio’s charitable foundation, observed, “The amount of money spent in the holiday season on chocolate alone is greater than the annual budgets of Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association combined!”

So if we would give just a fraction of the money that’s spent on chocolates, charitable work could increase significantly. That’s mind-boggling.

Last Friday I went to Wal-Mart. The crowds were overwhelming. People pushed and shoved to get what they wanted. They argued over who was next in line for a cashier.

To say the least, Christmas spirit was in short supply.

In Valley Stream, New York, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death as a crowd broke down the doors and stampeded for the bargains.

Hold on just a minute! What have we done to Christmas?

We’ve taken a great idea and changed it into something completely unrecognizable.

The real Saint Nicholas is remembered for his secret charitable giving. That’s right—it was anonymous. He didn’t want the recipients to know he was the one who helped them!

Now don’t get me wrong. Exchanging Christmas gifts is a fun thing to do. But to go deep in debt, be stressed out over it and ignore Jesus sort of misses the whole point--doesn’t it?

I’ve actually had people get mad at me and tell me I was ruining Christmas by talking like that. But I didn’t ruin Christmas. It’s already been done. We are all guilty.

What’s the solution? Take a lesson from Jesus.

When he came to earth for that first Christmas, the Bible says that he “emptied himself.” In other words, he gave up his rights and became a servant. His goal was to help others. He came to die for our sin so we could receive God’s gift of eternal life and become children of God.

And when a rich man asked Jesus what he should do, Jesus said to sell what he had, give to the poor and then follow him. The man’s focus had been on himself instead of God and others.

If we would follow Jesus’ example and his advice, it would do more than redefine Christmas. It would TRANSFORM Christmas! Just imagine the people who’d be helped if we gave ten, twenty or thirty percent of our Christmas budget to charity. Or just what we spend on chocolate.

Now I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I’m just thinking out loud a little bit.

Remember, the Bible says, “It is better to give than to receive.” Think of that next time you walk by the red kettle and the bell ringer. Or drive by the local food bank.

Folks, when it comes to Christmas, I think we could do better. I’m just sayin’ …

Listen to the Bible; it’s great for your soul!

1 comment:

Sandy Olson said...

We agree with you. Christmas is about listening to others and caring about those you love. It is about resisting consumerism and finding the baby in the manger in Bethlehem. It is about taking time, giving to those in need, doing those acts of kindness and mercy that we never seem to take time to do. Live in a responsible manner so that the resources of the earth are available to all of God's creation. Thinking about sustainability as we live gives life a new perspective. Cutting back on water use, recyling and reusing can be fun if we have group support. I am anticipating Christmas in a whole new way.

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