I guess I’m getting so old I’m starting to quote myself. These are some observations I made in a book called, The Cost of Winning: Coming in First Across the Wrong Finish line.” The book is about the mistake we make when we turn life into a contest, which to the Savior it is clearly not. This is what I said:
So why is it, during the holidays, we suddenly feel uneasy about businesses trying so hard to get their share of the money that’s going to be spent on Christmas presents? What I suspect is that under the surface we all know that we, not the system, have made Christmas too materialistic. We know we spend too much money and that we’ve turned something sacred into, “What do you want for Christmas?”
What we believe is that Christmas ought to be simple, family-oriented, and peaceful. Instead it’s often hectic and worldly. But we keep doing it the same way each year. Many of us spend way too much money on gifts, go into debt, and realize every January—when the credit card bills come in—that we’ve gotten carried away.
But there’s more to it than that. We say we like to give more than receive, and maybe we’re somewhat disingenuous about that, but I do think we enjoy the giving. And in a materialistic society, maybe it’s only natural that we would think that when it comes to giving, more is more—that we prove our love with the price of the present.
But we also give to the poor at that time of year—more than any other time. That’s good, isn’t it? The Christmas music, the stories, the “spirit of Christmas” does cause us to donate to “Sub for Santa” and other such programs. We don’t want any child to go without “a Christmas,” as we call it. That’s certainly a good impulse. Maybe we try to manifest love with material gifts, but at least we include people in need.
But let’s think about that, too. I once heard a United Way executive say that during the holidays Americans love to give a turkey to a poor family--whether the family has an oven or not. Sometimes, he said, it would be so much better to give that family a case of peanut butter—say, in August, when kids go back to school. But in August many of us don’t think much about the poor. In August, we tend to get awfully worried about “the dole.” A kind of “every man for himself” mentality prevails. But Christmas is different. Everyone should have a Christmas—and that means everyone should get presents.
Is it materialism in the name of religion?
I think it is, but it’s certainly not all bad. Some of our most noble emotions are inspired by the season, and maybe, instead of complaining so much about the commercialism, we should accept the two parts of ourselves represented by the frenzy we create.
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