Keeping Christ in CHRISTmas.
The Christmas season is arguably our greatest cultural paradox. On the one hand, it is a great holy day. On the other hand, it is a commercial extravaganza. Christmas epitomises the tension over fundamental values in our society. Steeped in images of family, sharing, and fun, the reality for many is just the opposite.
Good will toward all has been supplanted by a consumerist binge. Peace on earth translates into an environmental assault on our common home. Christmas is the occasion for the largest discarding of solid waste throughout the year. Santa Claus has long since displaced Jesus as the central figure of the season. I'm not trying to demonise the jolly fellow, but let's face it, his primary holiday message is: "What can Christmas do for you?" Jesus on the other hand, stressed the opposite: "Love your neighbour as yourself." The commercialisation of Christmas is an old story. Everyone complains about it, but few try to change it. Yet, we can change it.
There are many creative ways to experience the joy of generosity without spending a lot of money. For example, spend time making a special gift rather than shopping for one. A homemade gift costs less and often means more to the person receiving the gift. Build a birdhouse, write a poem or short story, and frame one of your favorite pictures. If you are one of those people who claims to have no talents, give the gift of time. Design a gift certificate good for 10 hours of volunteering at a soup kitchen or visiting a nursing home, or some similar act of charity.
Even when family or community gift-giving is motivated by love instead of obligation, we need to reach beyond our immediate circle of friends - and love our nameless neighbours. Call a social agency, find a family in need and purchase appropriate gifts for them in lieu of unneeded gifts for one's own family. By doing something to help an individual or family in need, we can rekindle the true spirit of Christmas and nourish our own souls. Instead of worrying about what to give someone for Christmas, join your neighbours or parishioners in carolling.
Reduce the stress of the season by simplifying things. Host a Christmas potluck dinner rather than having one person get burned out tending to all the details alone.
This December, spend time with your family/friends talking about alternative ways to celebrate Christmas. The message our brother Jesus gives us is one of selfless love. If enough of us try to celebrate in this way, we may wake up on December 26 feeling renewed, connected to our global family and joyful about the prospect for true peace on earth.
Bernard Spitzley SVD
Holy Rosary Catholic Church