By Eric Paul
This may seem a little absurd to some. I mean, its just a Christmas store and Christmas is the day we celebrate Christs birth by showing others how much we care. We give presents, eat giant hams, spend hundreds on electricity, and read the second chapter of Luke. So why then should a store that helps us celebrate make me so uncomfortable? Well, it does.
I walked into the worlds largest Christmas store and started spinning because of all the false theology I was witnessing. I literally made it ten minutes before I had to stop, tell my wife I couldnt in good conscience keep shopping, and sit down. As I sat, I wrote out my thoughts. I decided to write here exactly what I wrote on that day. I wanted to preserve some of the emotion that was wrapped in this experience:
So I am at the worlds largest Christmas store, sitting in the cafeteria while others shop. I started by walking around, but that lasted about ten minutes before I became quite nauseated about what was going on around me. I told Joy I was quite uncomfortable and could not be here.
You see, I am a professing Christian: one whose life has been radically altered by a man who lived life completely differently and then asked for us to do the same. Freedom and peace are not American ideals that are brought by a smart bomb, but rather from a prince/carpenter whose family was most likely economically burdened by King Herods desire for a new palace residence outside Nazareth.
He came to preach a message to the poor, to heal the blind, set the captive free, and proclaim Gods jubilee (the Jewish custom of debt and slavery removal). He came to release us from our addictions, but our addictions are not limited to drugs, alcohol, and sex. We as a society are addicted to money, status, and our own identity.
But our identity as Christians is not found in these; they are found only in the truth that we are Gods children.
It became painstakingly clear that we as the church have bought into this theology of mammon. As we entered this monstrous Christmas store, the motto of Bronners was proudly proclaimed, Enjoy CHRISTmas, its HIS birthday; Enjoy LIFE, its HIS way.
Except, this is not His way. It is our way. His way was to give to each who has need (and in some cases sell all your possessions), not to create a multi-billion dollar holiday and say were celebrating His birth. His way was to take care of the earth, not spend $900 per day on electricity. His way was entering the world through an ostracized virgin in a filthy feeding trough, not creating over 500 different styles of nativity scenes (some bearing American flags–as if Jesus was a white middle class American politician).
We have been taught that to enjoy life means to accumulate more. But to Christ, enjoyment and satisfaction are only found in the Father. Our whole system of capitalism is a farce. It feeds off all of our greed. It tells us that the remedy out of financial hardship or even the tragedy of terrorist attacks is to do more shopping (words of President Bush after the 9/11 attacks). What a lie! And we are living it. I am living it.
This became unmistakably clear as Handels Hallelujah Chorus played in the background of the store. Hallelujah, we have domesticated Jesus.
I read these words again and I feel the same passion now as I did while in the store. I still am awestruck that such rancid consumerism has Jesus face plastered all over it. I do not think that this is the way of the Kingdom of God.
I am still learning how to re-think [the actual word for repent] how to live in accordance with the Kingdom. Im not quite sure what all of it looks like. Should I get rid of all Christmas decorations? Should I give all the money I usually use on presents for those who have nothing? Or am I just referring to excess or over-abundance? I dont feel as if celebrating Christmas is wrong but only in the some of the ways in which we choose to celebrate.
As Mark Twain remarked: “What bothers us about the Bible is not the words we dont understand but the words we do understand. May the Kingdom of God continue to pervade our hearts and minds as we earnestly seek him and proclaim Jesus as Lord.”
If you liked this article, check out Church Consumerism
Eric is currently living in Nashville, TN, with his beautiful wife Joy. After a year off from school, he is excited about once again joining the academic community while pursuing a Masters in Divinity. You can find some of his thoughts at www.pruningspears.blogspot.com.