I love Christmas and after a week of relatively serious writing I felt the need to celebrate the reason for the season. That’s right, materialistic consumerism the religion with the most followers of any in the United States. Just look around and you will see that even before Halloween that Christmas paraphernalia is already filling the store shelves and if you go to one of those craft stores you might even see a manger scene complete with Freddy Krueger and the Pilgrims kneeling at the crèche surrounded by the Wise Men, shepherds, vampires and turkeys. I tell you it is a miracle to behold disparate holidays blended together as only marketing professionals can do.
I just find the holiday spirit something to behold don’t you? I just love the solemnity of Black Friday where countless consumers spend like drunken sailors and fight like them too when they find out that Wal-Mart has run out of everything that was in the Black Friday special advertisement. It is inspiriting I tell you to excitement and mayhem of the season. I just love the soothing sounds of non-stop advertisements on television with happy people spending money on lavish gifts to the tune of popular holiday music celebrating Santa the Savior who has come from the North Pole to bring joy to the people showering them with gifts paid for by those little plastic cards that everyone carries in their wallet. Yes my friends it is a wondrous season where for a month following Thanksgiving we exhaust ourselves and spend ourselves into oblivion as the miracle that began on 34th Street gives us all a wonderful life.
Now of course as you might guess, Padre Steve is a Christian and like all Christians he knows that Jesus is the “reason for the season” because all the Christian stores that sell Jesus junk tell him so. Meanwhile hundreds, no verily thousands of Churches endeavor to fill the pews with new and exciting versions of the Christmas story, complete with Angel choirs made up of heavy metal bands, hip hop artists and digitally enhanced manger scenes in Dolby Surround sound and 3-D graphics complete with interactive menus. It is amazing and wondrous to behold especially when the offering plate comes round, joy to the world and pray that the church breaks even, if not take a second offering after all it’s better to receive than go broke.
You see it seems that even in matters of faith rampant consumerism and materialism has distorted the very simple message of the Gospel that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.” (Gal, 4:4-5)
It is in that fullness of time in a humble stable that most of us would shy away from because of the stench that Jesus was born, born of a virgin. In that humble stable away from their home in Galilee a young couple found themselves with child while obeying the edict of Caesar to register in a census. In the fullness of time a child was born in an era of oppressive paranoid local leaders such as Herod as well as the ever wary and security conscious Romans. He was born in an era of religious fervor where ordinary people hoped and prayed for a deliverer but where many religious leaders were more interested in keeping their power than in welcoming a Messiah, where religious leaders made money on the gifts and offerings of devout people and where a profit could be made by selling off less than perfect animals for the offering while keeping the best for the religious leaders.
Yes my friends it was a time not very different from our own. Somehow I think that Jesus would scratch his head in bewilderment in he were to walk the mall, watch a little television and visit a church or two and see just how he is marketed but allegedly Christian people. It’s funny how little things change in 2000 years. I wonder if Jesus would get one of those WWJD bracelets or perhaps a few copies of The Prayer of Jabez? I wonder if he would turn over the tables in the Jesus junk stores and foyers of churches. I wonder if he would shed tears over the constant bombardment of advertisements telling people who are losing their homes to spend more money and of the rich passing the poor by on the streets. I wonder if he would bless the practice of usury that undergirds our economy while impoverishing debtors that so many of his people support as being good for the economy. I wonder about so much more including if Jesus would support the way that we celebrate him. Somehow I think that he would be more upset about the way that his people treat him than those that are of other religious faiths or those that have left churches because of any number of abuses by both clergy and lay people.
Maybe I just wonder too much, but don’t you?