I’m trying to imagine a Christmas without commercialism. You know what? Can I admit this? (In a whisper) I’m not sure I like it.
There, I’ve said it. I’ve revealed my shallow materialism.
My fondest Christmas memories, the ones that stick with me, are filled with “material.” The glass ornaments so old that the paint was scratched off in places. Bubble lights. The little pine-cone and pipe cleaner elves that I adored. A snow globe that eventually dropped its water level but until then offered a glimpse into an enchanted village. The red bobble-head dog that came from who knows where but joined us every year. Our tree, which even though it was artificial had the most wonderful smell to me—slightly musty from storage, slightly metallic from adhering tinsel. Waiting for Santa was the most magical time, the most splendid magnificent time. The world changed and lit up. Everything was preparing for, moving toward, converging on this most incredible day. And on Christmas morning wonderful gifts magically appeared. You never knew what might be there.
When I lived in New York, I loved walking past the sweet-spicy trees sold from sidewalk vendors, and looking at the elaborate displays in store windows. People walked by briskly with shopping bags as well as brief cases. Steam curled from carts selling roasted chestnuts, and the scent of vanilla drifted off the carts selling sugared almonds.
I love gift-wrap, ribbon, bows, and glitter. I love toys. I like seeing children standing in line excited to visit Santa. I like the angels of light on the lampposts of Maine St. Suwanee. I like seeing the houses where people have gone nuts with lights and decorations. I like the special smells in candle and toiletry stores—evergreen, cranberry, gingerbread, peppermint.
Yes, people are running up debt chasing an illusion. Yes, the material will never fill our hearts. Yes we pile toys under the tree to make up for a year of benign neglect. We are selfish, grasping, greedy, indulgent. Where in all of this is Christ? Where He always is, I suppose, in the middle of everything. There is something about our extravagance, our over-reaching desire to celebrate something, anything, an idea, a faint glimmer of something we once heard, that moves me.