So, it’s Christmas. Almost. Which means Oxford Street must be chock-a-block with shoppers. I opted out of the merry mayhem a while ago – when I started my relationship with Jesus.
I’d watch as people went crazy around me, rushing around buying gifts, spending lots of cash, perhaps cash they didn’t have.
I was on the outside, looking in, watching through a window as the world dashed desperately from store to store wondering what gifts to buy, when the real reason for Christmas was so much more than this, so much more beautiful, so much more profound, so much more… spiritual.
If only people knew the truth, like me, I was sure they would be set free.
I knew The Truth. Jesus. He was real. He was alive. Christmas wasn’t a consumer fest. It wasn’t simply about buying gifts but about God’s gift to us – of salvation, of eternal life, of knowing him.
Christmas was about love – God’s love. Jesus was His plan to rescue us from our stress; from the crazed, hysterical, complex mazes of our lives – and give us peace.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Timothy Keller in his podcast ‘Peace – Overcoming Anxiety’ says anxiety is the opposite of peace. Why do we allow ourselves to get so anxious over Christmas? Why do we allow ourselves to give up our peace? Are we losing sight of The Truth and worshipping another god: the god of commerce?
What happened? How did Christmas become this mass commercial shop-a-ganza? Christmas was about God’s plan to save humanity from itself; from its self-centeredness, selfishness and greed.
Yet now the major retail corporations seem to have succeeded in re-inventing Christmas as the biggest, fastest money-making scheme of the year; the embodiment of selfishness and greed.
Has Christmas become a big fat cash cow? Or perhaps we are the ones being milked…for every last drop. Thénardier – the innkeeper in Les Misérables, would be proud!
“When it comes to fixing prices
There’s a lot of tricks I knows
How it all increases, all them bits and pieces
Jesus! It’s amazing how it grows!”
So, how can we find a balance? How can we bless those we love with gifts yet not aid and abet the exploitation of our saviour?
We could take inspiration from the good old Three Wise Men (or ‘magi’) Their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh resound with symbolic significance.
Gold was usually reserved for royalty. Gold symbolised that Jesus was king. Jews burned frankincense on the altar in the temple when they worshipped God. Frankincense symbolised Jesus was God. Myrrh was often used for burials. Myrrh symbolised Jesus’s death.
So, together, the magi’s gifts symbolised God’s redemptive plan to rescue humanity: the baby Jesus they had come to worship was the God-king who had come to die.
Such wise gifts! So carefully chosen! They really used their i-magi-nations! Here in Cambodia I saw an advert recently prompting people to consider buying Christmas gifts locally – from local craftspeople, clothes-makers, artists and artisans – ethical consumerism. I’m not sure the big boys in the playground would appreciate that. I can see the Boxing Day headline now: ‘Retail chains claim worst Christmas in decades!’
But not in our hearts… in our hearts, with carefully chosen gifts and a little imagination we could experience the most magical Christmas ever.
I’m opting out of buying presents again this year. However, I received a beautiful gift recently, which I’d love to share with you – a poem from the River Walk blog:
‘This Christmas help us to spend less money…
But more time.
Let us not give to those who expect…
But rather to those who need.
Let us not buy presents…
But rather be Your presence,
To a world lost and dying.
Let us incarnate You.’
Here’s to a magi-cal Christmas!
(image via CreationSwap)