Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is Christmas about compassion or consumerism?

Yesterday we went shopping. In our defense we started out shopping for children off of the Angel Tree at church, but as often is the case, included shopping for our own kids, as well as for ourselves. As we walked through aisles and aisles of plastic crap, the weight of Christmas consumerism was overwhelming.
This year we made the decision to match what we spend on our family with spending on others. That feels like a start, maybe start that will move from 50/50, to 30/70, and eventually 10/90.
Some relatives ask me what the girls need/want for Christmas, and my mind is blank. There is really nothing more that they need, but I can think of a lot other people who do have needs.

Today I read about the Advent Conspiracy, is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption. They point out that Christmas, at its core, is about changing the world, not about buying more and more things.

It's one thing to celebrate the festivities of this winter holiday, to go and look at lights, to cut down a tree, to decorate the house...but it's another thing to continue to worship this false god of consumerism. As we study Colossians at Community, and as I talk to students and hear from them how tight of a grip consumerism has over them, I worry about using this day recognized as the birth of our revolutionary Jesus, to fuel the fire of the adversary.

Now...back to Christmas shopping.

Update: Lisa asked me to elaborate as to what I mean by 50/50
For every dollar that we spend on someone that we know, we aim to spend a dollar on someone with needs who we don't know. Orphans, kids whose parents are in jail, children of migrant workers, etc. The idea is that however much money we spend on our own family/friends, we also spend on "the least of these."


Christine H. said...

Wow! Awesome thoughts! I agree. But please be encouraged, Ryan. We started something last year and did it all year as a result of this type of conversation we had last December ('06) in Community...

We set aside $25 a month for Christmas (we've done that for years). So, this past year (Jan. '07) we started setting aside an additional $30 a month for what we call a "blessing" fund, to be used ONLY for others, to bless them. We've paid for Life Design for ladies, helped with the well project, bought coffee and dougnuts for the day laborers waiting for jobs downtown, didn't get reimbursed for "church" expences, etc., etc. And it was so much fun!!! So, that $30 will always be written into our budget every month. And it all started in Community.

I really appreciate how you spur us on to thinking outside the "Christian" box and think about what we can tangibly do every day to help others, and especially in this holiday season.

Christine H. said...

Oh, and I totally understand about the buying for your kids also. When we filled shoe boxes, I kept telling Amber that she couldn't buy anything for herself. What a concept, huh?

ATSmith said...

This is the first year (maybe ever) that I have really gotten into the real Christmas Spirit. By that, I mean, when I hear real Christmas songs (as opposed to Jingle Bells) I am overwhelmed with joy that we get to celebrate Christ's birth. I am also encouraged by our decision to put away money each month during the year to give away during the Christmas time ... I think that is what has made this Christmas Season so special ... we are not just thinking about those in need, we are actually doing something about it. So, don't be so hard on yourself! Like Christine said, be encourage that people are making changing in their lives to further God's kingdom.

hestermom said...

Ryan, I really appreciate your thoughts, and your willingness to take action on them. It is a process (as Amber so graciously reminds me with my cleaning frenzy!!) We had talked to Caleb about how the cross (an ornament on the tree) reminds us of Jesus, and the lights remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. The other day, we were in the store and he saw a cross. So at the top of he lungs he shouted, "Mom! That cross reminds us of Jesus!" And I say, "Yes, sweetie it does!" Then he turns his eyes and sees a sign with a picture of Mickey Mouse, and says just as loud, "And Mom! That Mickey Mouse reminds us of Disneyland!!" And so it is with all of us that we are so quickly divided between the culture that has so easily entangled our thoughts and our hearts, and the Spirit of our Holy God which dwells in us.
"Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." Psalm 86:11
P.S. This might be a little personal, so you can tell me to buzz off, but I am wondering if the 50 percent on others is extended family, friends...etc, or just actually others outside people you know closely?