Yesterday morning, one of my colleagues came looking for advice from the S+L producers. As a parent facilitating a children’s catechism class, she wanted to know how to get kids excited about the spiritual meaning of Christmas.
Soon, we were able to extract the root problem: she wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about it herself. I had to confess that I felt the same way. And who could blame us? Like Santa’s sleigh, the season has accumulated some serious baggage.
My sense of dread began with the first sight of a department store Christmas display. The holiday shopping season seems to begin earlier every year. Before long, predicts Jesuit writer Fr. James Martin, Christmas promotions will start appearing around Labour Day. (Speaking from experience, I maintain that these constant reminders have done little to cure habitually last-minute gift buyers and card senders.)
The season’s culture has come to be defined by indulgent spending, even more indulgent eating, saccharine movies and an insipid hymnal of holiday Top 40. Christmas has morphed into a monster that bears little resemblance to its religious namesake, such that the soulless “happy holidays” seems a more fitting salutation.
The war may already be lost, Fr. Martin concedes
, regardless of whether Walmart co-opts our feast days with “Merry Christmas” advertising. In the face of defeat, the Jesuit recommends that we “go underground” and engage in some non-violent resistance:
Read the Scriptures. Sleep late next year on Black Friday. Refrain from buying stuff that no one needs. Tell everyone else not to buy you so much stuff. Spend less. Turn off QVC and turn on a CD of Christmas hymns. Don't even open those emails from J. Crew and Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean. Send cards not to 100 people, but 10. Pray more. Buy fewer gifts for fewer people. Set a limit on visiting department stores. Remember that Macy's can't tell you what to believe in. Cut back on the holiday parties. Stop eating so many cookies. Don't get sucked into the craziness. In short, resist, ignore or avoid the superfluous stuff that has little to do with Christmas.
It’s a good start. Thankfully, the Advent calendar shows that we still have 11 days left to put some of Fr. Martin’s recommendations into practice. Like every clichéd holiday film, there’s hope for even the most cynical and wearied among us to rediscover the true spirit of Christmas.