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Too Commercial? Bah! Humbug!

Robert M. Price

Can you hear it? On the margins of holiday consciousness? The clockwork nagging from the spoilsports about how the real meaning of Christmas has gotten lost amid all the packages and presents and glitter? "Put Christ back in Christmas!" "Christmas is too commercialized!" Personally, I am a big fan of Christmas in its most baldly materialistic forms, and I suspect you are, too. Let me try to salve your consciences: I think we have nothing to worry about. We can go right on celebrating and opening packages to our heartsí contentóas we would have anyway!

For one thing, it is patriotic to buy all sorts of goodies for Christmas for the simple reason that you are thus helping fuel the economy. That is the real gift, and it is a significant one, that you are giving to our society in general. It helps make peopleís jobs and living standards more secure. If you shun the shopping malls out of a misplaced sense of self-denying asceticism, you are only patting yourself on the back.

Now it might still be wrong to support some businesses even if it were the economic lifeís blood of a society. Should we buy cocaine because the Bolivian economy thrives on it? Ah, no. Should we support Afghanistan by buying opium? Nah. But is Christmas-buying in any way comparable? No, itís not.

I admit that materialism is wrong, if by that we refer to a slighting or neglect of the spiritual dimension. But a healthy spirituality has a lot to do with the rightful use of matter and does not require the righteous person to shun matter. At least thatís what we ought to think if we worship God as the Creator of a material world that he called "good."

And that observation leads me to the reason that spending loads of loot on heaps of gifts is in no way incompatible with the much-lamented "true meaning of Christmas." Not only does Christmas commemorate the Incarnation of the Word of God, itself Godís gift to the world; it also gives us the chance to repeat what the Wise Men from the East did. Our holiday gift-giving is basically our acting out a Christmas pageant which stars our own children as the Christ Child. This is altogether appropriate, as the Son of God became the Son of Man, or Everyman.

Just as we help this Son of Man every time we come to the aid of the least of his brethren, so do we celebrate his birth every Christmas when we shower our equivalents of gold, myrrh, and frankincense upon our beloved children. Every package under the tree or in the stocking is a sacrifice of thanksgiving presented to the Manger of Christ.

And the fact that we continue to give each other Christmas gifts as adults is a way of seeing to it that we never grow up, never outgrow the fresh spontaneity and simplicity of the eye that sees the world forever anew. It helps us to stay, in our hearts and imaginations, like those to whom, Jesus said, the Kingdom of God belongs.

Merry Christmas!


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