The season is celebrated in various ways. The most prominent is the giving of gifts. There is nothing wrong with this. I have a lot of fun giving, but I am learning that giving is only good as long as it doesn't get to frenetic levels. There is something wrong, however, with rabid American consumerism.
It's coming. The Christmas season. There's really nothing wrong with Christmas. If you stick to the basics such as Christ's birth and peace and goodwill, like the angels declared in the Christmas story, the season can be quite nice.
The season is celebrated in various ways. The most prominent is the giving of gifts. There is nothing wrong with this. I have a lot of fun giving, but I am learning that giving is only good as long as it doesn't get to frenetic levels. There is something wrong, however, with rabid American consumerism. IBIS World reported that in 2008, Americans spent about $460 billion on Christmas expenditures. Other statistics show that the average American will spend between $500 and $1,000 a year. A lot of Americans spend the next year paying off credit card debt incurred the previous Christmas. There is something wrong with this.
Jesus said that "it is better to give than to receive," so there's no reason to be opposed to gift giving. There is also nothing wrong with getting up at o-dark-thirty on Black Friday to get to your favorite store at 4 a.m. -- if that's what you really want to do. After all, you can't deny that Black Friday deals are outstanding, and that supporting local merchants is useful to the economy, but is the frenzy necessary? In the spiritual sense, we do not actually "own" the material goods we have. We have what we have because of the manner in which we practice stewardship of the resources God has placed before us. How does frenzied spending, spending into sometimes insurmountable debt, show good stewardship of those resources?
We have to ask ourselves what motives are behind our giving. Are we giving because it's expected? Are we giving something just to help ourselves, our kids, our families keep up with the Joneses so that we'll look good? Or are we giving from a heart full of love and care with our recipient in mind?
Last year I came across an interesting Web site called makesomethingday.org. The premise of this site is to make gifts on Black Friday rather than go shopping -- not a bad idea when you consider the people who were trampled at a New York Walmart last year. Other Web sites I've looked at encourage people to buy nothing, but the folks at Make Something Day say that this is not enough. They believe that giving is a "central part of being human," and I agree.
The book of James says that perfect gifts come from God, and while I may be taking this phrase out of context, nonetheless it gives us a good premise on which to base our gift-giving. Giving "perfect" gifts -- a gift that is just right for the recipient, one that brings joy, could be considered an extension of God's love through us. We don't necessarily have to make something in order to give a good gift, a good gift results from the love in our hearts, which comes from God alone.
La Junta (Colo.) Tribune-Democrat