Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t have a big problem with the (so-called) “commercialization of Christmas.” The world’s economy has to be based on something, and that it rests on a season where people are, ostensibly, buying gifts for others, well, it could be worse! To hear some people, you’d think that attempt to express relationships (or lack thereof) in material terms was invented by Hallmark, but they seem to ignore the long history of giving gifts to pay homage, respect and even, yes, love (gasp). What’s more, we have gifts enshrined in the very Christmas story itself, and given the stability of gold, you can count me in as a very, very traditional Christian with respect to gift giving; none of those pagan-influenced poly/cotton blend socks for me! Sure, there have always been dandelion necklaces and candy rings, but “true love,” has always involved sacrifice, and two-months of your salary really does say something about where your heart is.

It is just this connection between love and sacrifice that makes a Christ-less Christmas so tragic, because the true “reason for the season” has been lost: freedom. Every cost/benefit gift calculation about how much to spend to express your love, or resentment over not enough love (i.e., an Amazon Kindle) received, is a further symptom of the abiding inner darkness that can not be overcome by twinkle lights, but can be endured with copious amounts of eggnog. And, the “I’m rejecting Christmas” people are no better, because, as we often point out, being captivated or repulsed by the same thing is still bondage. The Law, as it were, takes no prisoners. We are, literally, dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t to a life where there is always a catch and nothing is truly free. 

Whatever the motivation for people coming together on the 25th of December, Christians can celebrate the fact that, because of the Cross, they are under no obligation to celebrate Christmas in any way other than the one that they choose, because all such celebrations have been made value-neutral by the end of sacrificial giving to God. The true message of Christmas is that “Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners,” and that includes sinners for whom law based gift giving continues. But, in Christ, there are no more honors, no more sacrifices, no more bargaining with God, just a message to be heard:

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15