The reason for the season?
It's a material world, particularly at this time of the year - but there's only one gift that truly satisfies, writes Anna Hancock
It’s time to sharpen your elbows, dust off your credit card, get into comfortable shoes and prepare for the most important time of year! Yes, it’s the annual Consumer-Fest which actually runs from October – even September – but is really in its element once December is underway.
It’s time to show your family and friends how much you love them with a reindeer-embroidered jumper or a gadget that cuts fruit in eleven different ways.
It’s time to load a trolley full-to-overflowing in Tesco with food and drink to last several times the 24 hours the supermarkets are closed. After all, who wants to run out of brazil nuts or cranberry sauce half way through The Day? Unthinkable.
"Vintage Christmas Postcard" by jannoon028/freedigitalphotos.net
What? You think I’m missing something? Oh, the fact that it’s called CHRISTmas? Come on, it’s 2014 and we all worship consumerism these days.
Flash the plastic and worry about the bills in January. Actually, make that February because we have to go mad at the January sales first.
It’s all about spend, spend, spend. You know you can measure how much someone loves you by what they buy you and that you can always tip a can of baked beans into the food bank trolley to give you that warm festive glow.
We even have a day now to celebrate the ultimate in consumerism – Black Friday. Imported from America, Black Friday sees deals and bargains that are ‘too good’ to miss, as well as the worst of human materialism with stories of people being injured in crushes in stores and fights breaking out over TVs.
As an illustration of how consumerist fever swept the nation, a local computer retailer told me that they had had some tablets in their clearance bin for the past three weeks and hadn’t sold any. Come Black Friday, without reducing the price at all, they all went by lunchtime, such was the fervour to get a bargain.
Yes, we’re all searching for something and it’s not just a bargain we are missing in our lives. Most people’s intentions are good, they want to spend precious time with their loved ones, sharing in food and gift-giving to show appreciation of each other. This is what suits the retailers because they can sell us everything we need right up until the last minute.
But there’s no profit in Christmas Day for them, how frustrating it must be that there is one day a year with no trading! There’s no profit in celebrating the birth of a special baby born in a stable, but there is profit in crackers, food and gift wrap so let’s make it all about that! Let’s keep Christmas worldy and materialistic and keep those profits safe.
Even as Christians it’s hard not to get caught up in the idea that we need to spend money to have a ‘good Christmas’. It’s hard living in the world but not being of the world sometimes.
But we are reminded ‘do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’. (Matthew 6: 19-21). Our treasure, our greatest gift that we could ever receive, is Jesus, God’s own son, who He sent to save us and our heart is with Him.
Look, if materialism was ever going to be the ultimate fulfilment in life then surely King Solomon would have been the most satisfied person to have lived? He tells us in Ecclesiastes ‘I denied myself nothing my eyes desired, I refused my heart no pleasure’ – how true is that today of so much of our culture? Yet he found it ultimately worthless, declaring ‘Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income’.
And there’s the thing. Money, consumerism, materialism, they can never satisfy us, pursuing them only leaves us wanting more. And that suits Satan just fine; whilst we are chasing increasingly distant aspirations we are taking our focus off the Lord. In Jonah’s prayer we hear ‘Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them’; how easy it is today in our culture to cling to those worthless idols and to think that possessions, wealth or even celebrity will fulfil all we need.
Go back roughly 2000 years and you will find the greatest gift we have ever known, the birth of Jesus. God’s own son, sent to bear our sin and save us – what better gift to give your loved ones than the opportunity to hear the gospel and learn about our Saviour – and what Christmas really means.
Once the turkey has been eaten, the batteries have thankfully run out in the kids’ toys, and the tree is packed away, there is one gift that is more enduring, more steadfast and more worthy, given freely out of love for us. May everyone have a happy and blessed Christmas!
Anna Hancock is a church member and enthusiastic Press Officer at Rosebery Park Baptist Church in Bournemouth. A former Catholic, Anna rediscovered faith after an apologetics course at RPBC and was baptised in 2012.