Thursday, December 08, 2005

Material Christmas

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.


  1. This is such an incredible post! No wonder Jeff fell so hard for you. You're an awesome woman. I love your honesty, which is so hard to find in today's society. I feel exactly the way you do, because Christ-mas, may be the only way others get a chance to hear about Christ. Your post made me feel all warm inside.


  2. I am so glad you wrote this and shared it with us. I lashed out at commercial Christmas something awful a few weeks ago, and ever since I've had this nagging sensation that I should be seeking out the light and joy in what Christmas is rather than wagging a finger of judgment at the whole affair. Your diagnosis is astute, and generous, and honest, and beautiful.

    Thank you.

  3. Well said! Our sensuality is one of the gifts of God. Just because we can go too far in one direction doesn't make all the gilding and symbol of life wrong or "unChristian". The smells and bells of Christmas resonate and enrich our celebration of the feast. I get so bored with sanctimonius Christians. Talk about missing the point. I hope you and yours have a blessed Christmas loaded with all the "material" that makes this time so extra special rich.

  4. I love it that you wrote from the heart. And I'm with Paula on this - no wonder Jeff loves you

    I love it that you can see God's hand and heart in so much.

    Commercialism isn't wrong -it's when it's out of balance that it is - and your heart is focused on Him and I love that.

    As I write this - late - I'm off to bed once I've done this - I can see the neighbour's advent lights. One pair in each window in their sunporch. This is perhaps one of the few windows that can see them, so why do they bother to decorate their freezing cold sunporch so beatifully year after year. I don't know. But it brings light to me and I love it

    Judah would have screamed turn off those lights, use the money you are wasting to feed the hungry, or clothe the poor. He couldn't break open the alabastor jar.

    That's what Christmas can be all about. It's what I long for and I love it that in all the bows and the glittter you've seen someting of the Spirit of the Living Lord, something of the Spirit of giving, something of our desire to celebrate Him and His birth ... and I thank you for opening my eyes again to it.

    I will never like the crowds and the bustle. But you've taught me that Christ is in Christmas even in the commerical bits. I shouldn't be suprised at this - God is in everythign I do, see, breathe and feel. And I love Him so.

  5. Good post. I actually have an urge to go to Manhattan and see all the lights, but then I will have to do battle with the crazy shoppers. How many of us do see the day as Christ's revelation to us humans? What came first: our greed or the companies that made us greedy? Just don't know.

  6. That is lovely, and very much reflects my own I love all the excitement and the colour and the music...and yes, it does catch an echo somewhere, I'm sure.
    What a lovely post! Thank you