Well, here we are. After enjoying a holiday dedicated to giving thanks for everything we have, we all immediately rushed out at midnight to buy more things. This mad rush for door-busters was the gunshot that opened a mad Christmas race; now we’re all sprinting towards a celebration of the coming of Christ… and we’ll celebrate by acquiring more things and giving them to each other.
This is not an original line of thinking, I know. You’ll find hundreds of people all around you this time of year, throwing up their hands, crying “materialism!” and going on about the ‘reason for the season.’ Still… I’m going to join them.
Because actually, we are materialists, and actually, there is a Reason for this season.
It always comes as a surprise to any individual to find out that they are themselves materialistic. No one thinks they are. They may talk about how Americans are, or Society is, but it doesn’t often hit home: I am a lover of things. I am a lover of material—of stuff. I am materialistic.
Part of it is that nobody imagines themselves as lovers of money, either. I don’t know many people who would enjoy sitting in a room counting coins, lying on them like a dragon, throwing bills in the air like people do in heist movies. Instead, we sit around and daydream about things we can’t afford.
Money can be about all kinds of things. It can be about food; it can be about clothes or cars or houses; it can be about travel. It can be about power, for some people. It can be about education, or having the option to ‘do what you love’, or about the convenience of not having to scrimp and budget.
For me, it’s connected with taste and experiences. It’s about the lifestyles I see around me.
I never wanted a Lamborghini. I just wanted a car that runs without giving me any trouble. I didn’t want to vacation on a private island. I just wanted to be able to study abroad in France. I didn’t want a mansion in LA—I wanted a loft apartment in SoHo. These things were about taste, not ‘extravagance’. I don’t want to be a Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton; I want to be a Grace Kelly or a Martha Stewart.
But the fact of the matter is, the things I wish I had do require money. These things are wants, not needs.
So this Christmas season, I’m apologetically putting forth a theory: perhaps we could enjoy the month of December just as well with just a few well-baked cakes, a toy or two, and a whole lot of caroling. Perhaps our children could get by on Christmas morning without having to plough through a small continent of presents. It’s a special time, I recognize that. But something tells me that a few items would be more memorable to a child (or adult), anyway, than the mountainous onslaught of MATERIAL we have to wrap and unwrap every year.
And not to lay it on too thickly, but remember what Paul has to say about this in 1 Timothy 6:6-10: “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”