Fractals & Christmas

My friend Miller wrote a piece that I think is worth reading, especially for you left-brain science types. Seriously, it’s pretty applicable to every missional Christian, so give it a once-over. Here‘s the link.

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Chances are, if you read more blogs than just this one, you’ve read a post somewhere decrying consumerism at Christmas and how the true meaning of Christmas has been hidden behind all the malls, big-box stores, Sunday circulars, and incessant need for more, more, more. Many are calling for Americans — not least Christians — to simplify the season. This is often easier said than done, however. So ingrained in our psyche is the association between Christmas and shopping, and it’s rather difficult to turn around the Titanic. I’m not here to add anything new to the conversation, per se, but to point you to some resources I’ve found helpful in this ongoing conversation that for us, has been taking more and more shape every Christmas.

First, a thoughtful piece by Richard over at Experimental Theology called “In Praise of the Consumerism of Christmas.” He really does defend the status quo of consumption, and does a pretty darned convincing job of it.

Mark wrote a post called “Shop Till You Drop (Your Soul)” that stresses buying locally (if you buy at all) and points to some good books and multimedia resources on the subject. Worth a read.

I just found out about Advent Conspiracy today. It’s “an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption.” I can dig that. It looks like in addition to an abundance of good blogs and articles, AC offers churches resources on how to emphasize the right stuff this season. On a practical level, this list of “relational gift ideas” was especially intriguing to me as we think of alternative gifts to share with our friends and family this holiday season.

Finally, if you haven’t checked out Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping, do so. He’s the Benny Hinn of the Christmas counter-culture. The preacher stuff is all an attention-grabbing front, of course, but his message is serious: to make Americans think about what they consume, where their stuff is made, and how consumerism is overwhelming their lives. The Rev has a new movie out, just in time for the Christmas season called “What Would Jesus Buy?” Check out the hilarious trailer here.

It looks like the only significant money we’ll spend this holiday season is on plane tickets (which is a significant amount). We basically told our families that seeing them for a couple weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a gift in itself. And thanks to souvenirs we purchased directly from artisans in Tanzania, things we’ve made or will make, or simply not giving a physical gift to every last person we’ve ever met (and being OK with this), we’ve to this point avoided the long lines in big-box stores, the impulse buys, and participation in the market that feeds the shopping monster. Not to say we have it down perfectly (it’s been a progression over the last few Christmases), but it is possible to gradually opt out of the status quo this season and still be a good person. Like the Fernando Ortega lyric says, “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.”

UPDATE: I forgot to add that everyone’s favorite $5 coffee shop finally listened to the incessant wishes of its Christ-following constituency and released the official Starbucks Advent Calendar. Here’s the description on the site:

Count down to Christmas with chocolate and discover the festive scene that builds daily with each drawer. Tree shaped “countdown” to Christmas includes a chocolate treat to indulge each day.

Finally! Thank you, thank you, thank you oh Great Purveyors of Overpriced and All-Too-Often Unfairly Acquired Coffee for helping us center on Christ in the days leading up to Christmas. Coming this Spring: Low-Fat Lenten Latte, made with less whip than the rest of the year and sans the chocolate shavings on top. Comes with a biscotti-tasting communion wafer for dipping.

(Beth has a good and funny Advent-themed post today as well)

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bpb on December 4, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    I’ve had the talk with my family about not getting anyone any gifts. We all have so much, and there are so many with so little. We all begin to get stressed, worrying about what to get. And when my kids were small, trying to make sure I spent the same amount on each of them. No more. As of now, I’ve decided on St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and The Ark (a no-kill animal shelter in my area).

    Reply

  2. hilarious – a lenten latte. i have a new reason why we’re friends. 🙂

    Reply

  3. Yeah, we’ve stopped doing the gift thing for the most part. We draw names in my family and in Jeannie’s family we just buy stuff for the kids.

    A couple of years ago we just realized that we were taking part in the Great DVD Exchange every Christmas because that was what we could afford to give each other, it was pretty ridiculous. Since we don’t want any DVDs we just decided to stop doing it.

    Steve, you would have loved my Christianity in the Modern World class this quarter (the one where you made an appearance via my paper). We talked a lot about the systemic whole of our world that is pretty much impossible to stop or work against. It was eye-opening, depressing, and hope-giving.

    Reply

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