As the holiday season comes to a close, I’ve found an interesting idea has stood out to me more than most others. That is the trend of us in the Christian Church, or perhaps just my church or even just a subset of my church, feeling the need to shoot down those things in the world that detract from the holiday. The department stores that tell us that Christmas is about buying things. The gyms that tell us that the new year is our chance to lose those extra pounds (and, by extension, get laid). Society tells us to think of ways to be different for the dawning of the new year. None of this is necessarily bad, it just isn’t as good as it can be.
The church proclaims that Jesus fulfills our hopes and joys; that all of our desires can find their fulfillment in Jesus one way or another. It’s so simple, there really isn’t anything left to fill a paragraph in this post. I think the simplicity is what helps lead to the next thing.
The church tends to simply argue against these things rather than proclaim the alternative (which, by its very nature, shoots down the stores, gym, and society). Instead of a message of hope and peace and joy, there is a negative message of “not that!” It’s a cynical message of how this is what every holiday season is like and we all share it, so let’s talk about it endlessly.
This is how every holiday season is, at least in America. And it is rife with depression and raised expectations in things that can’t possibly meet them. But the message of the church is not that these times are depressing or that the holidays are run by Sears or Macys, but come to worship to hear the true story of Christmas when you’re done shopping. The message of the church is that there is hope for the depression, that there is something that fulfills the desires in ways the stores cannot. In that, we do proclaim that the stores are wrong, but that isn’t our message. I have heard too much talk where our message is that the stores, the gym, and so on are wrong. It worries me each time I hear it because it is full of cynicism where the message should be full of hope.
That being said, I have heard the message of hope and peace a great deal this year. Enough that it has sunk in deep and laid roots that are growing in surprising ways. My holidays were full of joy and peace, personally. I do hope that the holidays of others were similar experiences as well. There was a time when I would spend my Christmas thinking about how terrible the commercialism is or how the world has it wrong. But shouting against that is like tapping a brick wall in the hopes that it will instantly turn to dust. Better, I think, to shout not that there is an alternative, but the alternative itself. The people of this world are pretty intelligent. They’ll be able to make the comparison themselves if they want and probably reach even better conclusions.