I don't love to fish, but some of my favorite guys (my father-in-law and son) do. They each have fine collections of lures and flies to entice bass or trout onto their lines. Most of them are pretty effective at drawing attention to their colors and downplaying their hooks. And that's exactly the point of a lure: it convinces a fish that it is attractive and tasty but it doesn't deliver what it promises. What seems to be exactly what will make said fish happy will ultimately disappoint.
The same holds true for our propensity towards consumerism at Christmas.
Now don't get me wrong...I love giving and receiving gifts. There will certainly be a lot of presents being unwrapped at the Johnson house on Christmas morning. I love the spirit of giving that was modeled by the Wise Men and particularly by Christ. So I'm not suggesting that we ditch the stockings and donate 100% of our gift money to charity. What I am advocating for this year is a little perspective.
We need a little perspective on at least a few things related to the lure of consumerism.
We need a little perspective on necessity. While we talk about "keeping Christ in Christmas," are we taking an honest look at our Christmas consumer habits to see if they reflect the heart of our Savior? Sure, we can work hard to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." But if it is said to the check-out guy at Best Buy after dropping thousands of dollars on "essential" electronics and toys, does it really matter? You know that old "there are children starving in Africa" speech that parents give their kids? It's true. I don't think I'm giving my kids a Christ-honoring view of Christmas if my focus is on extravagantly giving them the very best of everything. Be generous, yes. But don't confuse wants with needs.
We could use some perspective on the cost of things. Beyond the fact that toys and gifts are expensive, I have been thinking more and more about the cost of the things that I enjoy on the lives of others. Specifically, I am burdened by the 27 million people who currently live as slaves in our world. While some of those serve unwillingly as indentured servants or are trapped in prostitution, the bulk of them are forced to work to build many of the things we enjoy in the west. Spend a few minutes entering your information into Slavery Footprint and tell me if it doesn't give you pause. Go on...I dare you. It only takes a few minutes and it is very eye-opening.
Finally, we need some perspective on happiness. According to a number of excellent studies, having neat stuff (even winning the lottery) doesn't make you happy. It never has...and it never will. Because there are so many other factors that affect how we feel, adding a special toy, electronic or gift will never generate lasting happiness. While it's a joy to give our kids nice things, parents will do well to also give their kids an understanding of contentment in all situations. Take a few minutes and read the few verses before Philippians 4:13 (where it says "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength"). We see that verse a lot on FCA sports t-shirts, but the verse has nothing to do with achievement or accomplishing our goals. It has everything to do with being content whether we have much or have little. Read it for yourself. Then evaluate if your kids are learning that principle.
As we approach the heart of the holiday season, don't be lured by the consumerism of Christmas. Give gifts to loved ones that celebrate and honor the birthday boy, not ones that over-promise and under-deliver. Pray for those entrapped by slavery who have no understanding of the freedoms we so easily take for granted. And keep pushing your family to find contentment with the greatest gift of all: the new life we have in Christ that makes every other thing pale in comparison. In our consumer-driven culture and during this consumer-hijacked holiday, a Christ-focused perspective won't happen on it's own. It must be modeled and taught by parents. Remember that God is with you...so you can do this!
The right perspective at Christmas changes everything.