Perhaps Christmas Excess Isn’t the Problem

People like to decry the crass materialism that has overtaken Christmas in our society. I like to decry it as much as the next person. It’s crazy, it’s excessive, and it’s in direct opposition to the point and true meaning of the gospel. Preachers, especially, when faced with scriptures about John the Baptizer while loud, jolly ads are running 24-7, seem to jump on the seasonal simplicity bandwagon.

But I had a thought the other day that made me realize that perhaps we’re doing our decrying at the wrong time of year.

On Sunday, I took some plates of cookies and clementines to some of the church folks who were unable to attend our Christmas Open House on Saturday. Oranges (or orange-like fruits like clementines, which are a huge improvement on oranges, actually) at Christmas always make me think of the old-timey sorts of Christmases that people my grandparents’ age used to have when they were young.

I remember my grandpa telling me about how he used to get just a couple things for Christmas, and one of those things was a big orange. And it was enough. Heck, it was great and amazing and lots.

Can you imagine if you tried to impress a kid today with an orange?

The difference isn’t about Christmas though. The difference is how it compares with what happens the rest of the year. Christmas consumerism has gotten so ridiculous because part of its job is to top the consumerism of the rest of the year.

If you haven’t had much fresh fruit all year, an orange makes a cool present. If, however, you have gotten sugary snacks all year and a surprise every time someone went anywhere and a new video game whenever you whined enough and clothes whenever someone was bored and went shopping, Christmas has to be over-the-top in order to make a dent at all.

It is disturbing to me that shopping has become a favorite hobby in this country. How is shopping a hobby? Going out to wander around and see if there’s another thingamajig you should bring home and stuff in a closet? That’s crazy. And it’s because of things like that — constant consumption — that Christmas has gotten so bloated with stuff and things. It’s just trying to stand above the crowd. The urge to make it special isn’t the problem. The problem is what it’s having to be distinguished from.

We really do need more John the Baptizer injected into Christmas. But more importantly, we need more gospel injected into the rest of the year. The gospel that tells us that our worth has nothing to do with what we own or went into debt for. The gospel that offers us freedom from stuff. The gospel that commands us to share whatever we have with those who have none.

The Rev. Rebecca Littlejohn is pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Anniston, Alabama. She serves as Chair of the Committee on Ministry for Alabama-Northwest Florida and as a member of the Board of Disciples Home Missions, where she is co-chair of the Pro-Reconciling Anti-Racism Team.

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About origenalheretic

I was born and raised in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia in the heart of Appalachia and I have a passion for the people and culture of my home. I was raised in Barren Springs, a small village near the towns of Wytheville and Hillsville and graduated from New Life Christian Academy in 1996. After graduation I took a gap year and worked as an intern in youth ministry with my home church, Hillsville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) while taking classes at Wytheville Community College. In the fall of 1997 I left Southwestern Virginia to pursue my education. I graduated in 2001 with a BA in Religion and Journalism from Milligan College in Johnson City, Tennessee. During college I served both the Downtown Christian Church and Beargrass Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as an intern in youth ministry. In May, 2001, I accepted a call to Watauga Avenue Presbyterian Church as Director of Education and Youth. While at WAPC I was active in Holston Presbytery and various community and ecumenical groups. In the fall of 2001, I began seminary and graduated with my Master of Divinity degree in May, 2005, from Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tennessee. I was ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) by the Virginia Region at my home church on June 12, 2005. I accepted a call to serve as the associate pastor for East Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) in Grand Rapids, Michigan in May of 2005. I served in that position for one year before it was eliminated due to budgetary issues, leaving me to pursue my writing and to prepare to return to school for a post-graduate degree. Among my many varied interests, I have a passion for spirituality, social justice, and ecumenism. I am committed to including young people in the full life and fellowship of the church, including leadership. I received my CORE certification in youth ministry from Youth Specialties in March, 2004. I am a member of the Association of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Educators, the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, the Center for Progressive Christianity, and I hold standing with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)and Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing with the United Church of Christ. At this point in my life I have come to terms with my sexuality and I think I have been able to reconcile it with my faith and my calling fairly well. I grew up in a denomination that affirmed me and encouraged me to be who I am as a child of God. I want to do all that I can to help young people accept and affirm the image of God that is within themselves. I am always seeking ways to serve the Church while challenging it to be more inclusive of all God's beloved children. I am currently a minister-at-large, meaning that I do not have a call to a specific congregation at the moment. I am thinking about going back to school to do post-graduate work in the area of sexuality and faith. I am an evangelical liberal. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, hiking, having a good conversation over coffee, frequenting used bookstores, cooking, and listening to music. I am currently writing three books: a book of daily prayer for the Christian year, a book on reconciling faith and sexuality, and a novel about the disillusionment of young adults in their first years after college.

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