There is so much good and so much bad that comes with Christmas. Giving = Good! Consumerism = Bad! Advent is second only to Easter for the Church calendar but as one of my favorite preachers said last week, "Christmas is the time of year in which it's most evident that we're living in rebellion to the Kingdom of God (referring to consumerism)".
Now, let me be clear about this (if it's even necessary), Erin and I buy gifts for ourselves and family members at Christmas. We set aside money each month into savings so Christmas doesn't "sneak up" on us. The gifts we buy are not necessary (they're extra things we want) nor is spending money on ourselves or family members the type of giving talked about in the Bible. Some years we budget to give away extra money to charities or have family members give to charities rather than buying us gifts, but (like this year) we don't always give extra at Christmas.
But the reality is that buying an ipod for someone who already has all they need is not Kingdom giving. Now, it's not bad, it's generous, it invests into the relationship, if how we spend our money reveals what we value it reveals we value our family members, but it's not the type of sacrificial giving taught by Jesus.
With that disclaimer done, I'm going to share some thoughts I had while listening to message this morning. But first - here's one more disclaimer: What I'm about to say may make you mad! We're so caught up in what Greg Boyd calls "the thin veneer of a civil religion" (juxtaposed against authentic Christianity) that we think saying "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays" or having a Christmas tree in a school classroom makes us Christian. That little bit of icing makes us feel good when the icing is really just covering a bunch of crap underneath; the crap of misplaced priorities during Christmas. But, since we're so immersed in our culture and have been lead to believe that all of our Christmas traditions are Christian, we NEED a serious shove out of our comfort zone to make us think. What I'm about to give is a serious shove.
Christmas is a giving frenzy, but does it really honor the greatest Gift ever given - Jesus? Does running up credit cards or buying stuff we don't need miss the point? The cultural practice of giving at Christmas gives us permission to spend money we don't have on things we don't need. A greedy consumer free-for-all is somehow supposed to honor Jesus? How?
But we hide behind the excuse we're alloted a year, "but it's Christmas - this is what we do! We buy ipods for each other!"
Folks, this is using Jesus as an excuse to consume and go into debt. This is breaking the 3rd of the 10 Commandments about misusing God's name.
But it's way too often the case, even for Christians. A national economy dependent upon out-of-control-consumerism has jacked up a wonderful time of year.
This Christmas, please think about how you're spending money. When buying gifts, please follow this advice:
If you're struggling financially right now, we've got some hope for you. TFC is parterning with King of Kings Lutheran to offer Financial Peace University. If you can't afford the cost of the class, we've got some scholarship money availabe; money donated by people who have gone through the class and want others to go through it as well. You can find out more info or sign up here - link.
If you want to give a gift to Jesus, try Compassion International or Heart-to-Heart International.
It's possible to give without loving but it's impossible to love without giving.