Our Lord of Conspicuous Consumption
December 22, 2010
I found this video on Christian Nightmares today. In the caption, the poster said “I don’t like Bill Maher, but I love his Christmas message” Watch and see what you think.
I don’t particularly like Maher either, I think he’s a smarmy, condescending know-it-all. This time, he’s also right. We’re crazy about stuff in the this country. Stuff, and the pursuit of it, is really what most of us worship. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be arguing over providing very basic (almost minimal) health care for all our citizens or whether the people who need it the least should get a break on their taxes. Everybody wants to keep the stuff they have and then go out and get more stuff. And, nothing brings out this drive to accumulate more than Christmas. Every year, the store’s are filled with shoppers buying crap that they don’t need and really can’t afford. We infect our children with this disease, too. One Christmas afternoon, when my nephew was about 2 or 3, his father (my brother) wanted to look at one of his toys. This normally sweet, good-natured kid pulled all the things he’d gotten that day into a pile, lay on it and yelled “MINE, MINE, MINE!!!” Unfortunately, that’s an all too frequent reaction and not just among kids. Contrast that story with one my grandmother used to tell about her favorite Christmas when she was a little girl. Grandma was born in 1905 in Volunteer, a little community in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains. She lived on a small tobacco farm and like most mountain farm families in those days, money was scarce. Today, we’d call them poor and enact all sorts of social programs; back around 1910, no such programs existed. Any help that folks got came from church groups and private citizens. The Christmas I’m talking about, one of those groups got together and gathered some resources so the children in the poor families would get something for Christmas. Grandma and her brothers and sisters didn’t know all that. What they knew was, not long after dark, they heard sleigh bells coming up the road to their house. Then, after the bells stopped, they heard a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho” and, when Grandpa Chandler opened the door, who stood there but Santa Claus. He came in, partook of what hospitality the family could offer (to do otherwise would’ve been an insult) and, finally, started passing out presents. Grandma got an apple, an orange, a little bucket full of hard candy and baby doll. And, she was elated. She remembered that Christmas Eve until the day she died at the age 95. How do you think kids today would react to such a meager haul at Christmas?
A lot of Christians go around this time of year, saying to anyone that will listen “Jesus is the reason for the season”. Okay, I’ll buy that, it is “Christ”mas after all. So, why don’t we start acting like it? Why don’t we do the things Jesus did, like help the needy, the poor, and the marginalized. Find someone who’s trying to do that and give them a hand. Find a family in need and throw them a lifeline. Hell, just quit thinking the guy panhandling is lazy and should get a job and give him a dollar. Better yet, give him a dollar or something to eat and talk to him like an actual human being. That would be a helluva lot better way to celebrate Jesus’ birth than crying over a sweater you don’t need.