Without a doubt, for most people Christmas is a religious experience. Unfortunately though, I am not speaking of manger scenes, candlelit services or singing Christmas carols. No, I am not even talking about formal Christianity as expressed in the biblical narrative. For many, including countless followers of Jesus, the god of Christmas is not Jesus Christ, but materialism.
Now, I know that sounds like a capricious judgmental statement, but the actions of many people during the Christmas season clearly proves my point. Take the way that shoppers acted on Black Friday. You probably watched as thousands of people pushed, shoved and sometimes fought their way into retail stores. Those wild participants were not people that were starving or refugees from poverty stricken nations that had been deprived of life’s necessities. No, the majority were middle-class Americans. Their desperation was not driven by hunger. They simply wanted more stuff!
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I certainly am not promoting an ascetic lifestyle, one that deprives itself of life’s comforts. All of us like to have nice things and give nice gifts. But when the materialistic aspects of Christmas overshadow its true meaning, we run the risk of worshipping the god of materialism.
So, how do you know whether “things” are overly important to you? Is there a way to test your level of materialism? Here are a few questions that will help you to evaluate what is really important to you at Christmas…
- Have you ever missed church to shop?
- Do you spend more time shopping the malls, surfing the online stores or searching the Word during the Christmas season?
- Have you ever failed to give your tithes and offerings during Christmas because you couldn’t afford to give to God AND give Christmas gifts?
- Are you more apt to use your disposable income for what pleases you or what will help to meet the needs of others
- Have you ever given a gift to a needy family or given a donation to a missionary at Christmas?
- Is God on your Christmas list?
- What are you doing to teach your kids and grandkids that Christmas is about more than receiving gifts?
Those are great questions. Please know that I do not mean to insinuate that answering a question negatively necessarily makes you materialistic. These questions do, though, help you to evaluate your priorities. What is really important to you during the Christmas season?
I would remind you that God the Father loved us so much that He gave (John 3:16). Let me challenge you this Christmas season to look for ways to give. Find a needy family and make their Christmas special. Give a food gift to the Open Heart Food Pantry. Give an offering to our missionaries in Bethlehem. Remember it was Jesus that said, “It is more blessed to give than it is to receive” (Acts 20:35). Yes, the best way to avoid materialism is simply to give.