Newsline

Newsline , Society

Cheers to Godly Materialism This Christmas

Posted on Saturday, December 24, 2022
|
by AMAC Newsline
|
18 Comments
Christmas

AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel

Given the parlous state of the Biden economy, I am encouraged by articles such as the one at Yahoo Finance that leads with this: “Even with a recession on the horizon and inflation rearing its ugly head, Christmas spending is still expected to be high.”

Don’t get me wrong. Not everything people spend on is necessarily worth it in the afterglow of Christmas as we sit by the fire and ponder the Visa bill. As the article goes on to document, a good bit of the spending ($117 per person on average) is not for gifts or even decorations but for what the article calls “non-gift purchases for self and family” that range from “ironic ugly Christmas sweaters to pine and cinnamon candles.”

But the rest of it? Travel to see loved ones, gifts for others, food, and holiday decorations? I’m glad to see it happen. As somebody who teaches Christian theology, I get a bit tired of the worried refrains we hear every year about how American Christians have become too materialistic in our celebration. In this view, rather than focusing on the birth of Jesus, Christmas has become a frenzy of consumerism that is ruinous to us all. Why can’t we be more spiritual about the whole thing?

I’m not going to write off this point of view entirely. We can never think that material goods or food and drink can of themselves fill up the God-shaped hole in the human heart. And it can be the case that by Christmas day, many people can feel a bit let-down by the whole experience. But this is a problem less of money than it is of timing.

The American tendency to treat the Christmas season as simply a season of parties that begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends December 26—with a few days off to prepare for the New Year’s bash—is a mistake. Advent, that solemnly joyful and joyfully solemn season of remembrance of the first and prayerful preparation for the second coming of Christ, needs to be a thing again. More prayer, fasting, and giving of alms would be a good way to prepare hearts, bellies, and even credit card balances for the great feast of Christmas that in English tradition lasts twelve days and whose broader season lasts until February 2—the Feast of Candlemas being the marker and not Groundhog Day.

But pit the “spiritual” against the “material” side of Christmas? Perish the thought, the origins of which generally come from the ancient heresy known as Gnosticism, which treats the material creation as, at best, a lower form of reality than that which is pure spirit and, at worst, treats it as something evil. This has nothing to do with the Christian teaching about the world we live in.

Far from our flesh and blood being a prison for purer spirits, the Christian (and Jewish!) understanding of the world is that God himself created it. Genesis 1 depicts God’s creation of all that stuff and all those creatures from lands, seas, trees, and plants to sea monsters, fish, and land animals as, in the divine word, “good.” And we humans, made “in the image of God, male and female”? According to the divine author, “Very good.”  

If the first parents and succeeding generations made a mess of this material creation, the divine solution was not to ditch the earth and bodies and stick to heaven and souls. Instead, the promise was a flesh-and-blood savior, one who would be like us in all ways except sin. One who would not merely promise heaven but a new heaven and new earth. Most wonderful of all, this savior was not just another man but the God-Man. God who created this material world decided to save it by taking part in it with a full body and soul. He who hung the stars was pleased to lay under them as a tiny child wrapped in swaddling clothes.

The materialism of Christmas began in the manger with that small child. As G.K. Chesterton put it: “Christ Himself was a Christmas present. The note of material Christmas presents is struck even before He is born in the first movements of the sages and the star. The Three Kings came to Bethlehem bringing gold and frankincense and myrrh. If they had only brought Truth and Purity and Love there would have been no Christian art and no Christian civilization.”

But there was! And all the developments of our “materialistic” Christmas are, both better and worse, testimonies to the fact that God himself apparently likes stuff. If we want to have a more “spiritual” Christmas, I don’t recommend holding back on the material element of it. Instead, let us celebrate using those material things in ways that build up love among our family, our friends, the poor, and even our enemies. Giving gifts and holding parties is a spiritual good. Especially when they include those who are left out.

The child in the manger would say as an adult that whatever was done for the least of his brethren would be done for him. Let us imitate him with lavish generosity of heart and wallet. Let us in every glass of eggnog and every Christmas goodie taste and see that the Lord is good. Let us offer and find his Presence in every present we give and take. Let us be Godly materialists, for God himself made matter and joined himself to it forever.  

David P. Deavel is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas and a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative.

Share this article:
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
18 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Esther
Esther
1 year ago

AMEN!!! Thank you for some good, Biblical, uncommon sense.

tika
tika
1 year ago

i grew up in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod since prior to kindergarten in the late ’40s. i’ve never heard of “Godly Materialism”. disappointed to see this article on AMAC. VERY DISAPPOINTED. A VERY SLIPPERY SLOPE.

Morbious
Morbious
1 year ago

So, it could never have been Merry Demiurge day or season. Ha. This is a fascinating article and one that points out a growing trend towards gnosticism masquerading as Christian spirituality. Nothing new under the sun. We live in an era of bad ideas being passed off as utopian. Marxism in the political arena and gnosticism in the spiritual.

Lynda
Lynda
1 year ago

Thank you for this thoughtful article. I grew up wanting to gift people and still enjoy the process. Every year I make very delicious fruit cakes that I can gift to many. I just want to show people how much I appreciate them and perhaps bring a little joy. Does it really matter the origins of a celebration, but rather what it means today in each heart.

Harry Meyer
Harry Meyer
1 year ago

The Jews do not believe the OT nor the New. They don’t have the Father nor the Son. 1 John 2:23

Nick
Nick
1 year ago

Christmas is a pagan holiday (the twelve day festival of Yuletide) celebrated at the Winter Solstice; the birth of Jesus of Nazareth was likely adjusted to fit this time of year. (In fact, Jesus’s birthdate was unknown for hundreds of years; the Bible does not mention a specific date.)

Gift-giving to friends and family is far older than organized religion, connecting back to tribal celebrations such as potlatch that were intended as showcases for material wealth.

The reason Christmas is such a popular holiday today is because it requires no particular religious elements. A fir tree covered with ornaments and surrounded by presents, while songs about sledding and snow play in the background, has no Biblical roots at all. And that’s terrific!

Michael J
Michael J
1 year ago

I’m not sure how most people can afford Christmas unless they adopt spending habits like the government. Higher costs on the surface doesn’t seem to deter people’s driving or shopping for that matter but unlike the government, we regular folks have to pay for our spending as well as theirs. Christ is the reason for the season, Merry Christmas!

Theopond
Theopond
1 year ago

May God give you his Peace. Such a good article, thank you and God Bless

Jeanette
Jeanette
1 year ago

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
2Corinthians 9:15

Delbert
Delbert
1 year ago

Truth is hard to come by these days! The promise is for now and the future, going into a large debt is Not what Christmas is about.

Nancy J Lamb
Nancy J Lamb
1 year ago

Very well said

Michael S.
Michael S.
1 year ago

Loved finally seeing something worth reading. Definitely need more of CHRIST in Christmas!!! We can’t afford to forget that all the material things, including money, disappear the moment our physical body expires, but OUR SPIRIT lives forever. Our SPIRIT lives on in the hearts and minds of our friends, family, and children. May all who read this have a MERRY CHRISTMAS and celebrate the birth of CHRIST with the Love and Mercy to ALL.

An older blonde women laughing in the kitchen with a grey haired man.
AMAC’s Medicare Advisory Service
The knowledge, guidance, and choices of coverage you’re looking for. The exceptional service you deserve.
The AMAC App on 3 different iPhone
Download the AMAC App
The AMAC App is the place to go for insightful news wherever you are and whenever you want.
Railroad worker with adjustable wrench on railway in spring in summer day
Vote here sign board placed near polling booth for showing direction to voters showing with copy space
Pro-life supporters holding a banner wlak in annual March for Life
Brandon Johnson for Chicago Campaign Logo with Woke stamp in red

Stay informed! Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter.

"*" indicates required fields

18
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x

Subscribe to AMAC Daily News and Games