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Christmas Commercial: A Contrarian Stance

By Mary Domb Mikkelson

“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?  In the lane snow is glistening.  A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland.”

Christmas is everywhere.  Carolers, scarves askew, hymnals held high, fill the air with joyous sound.  Wide-eyed children jostle in line to see jolly old St. Nick – and feed Rudolph. Trees, bedecked with golden angels – or mice or teddy bears, sparkle with tinsel.  Stockings, the bigger the better, are hung with care.  Wreaths contribute the heady fragrance of pine; snow, real or not, an ambiance of crystalline wonder.

The trappings of the season are in place.  Why, you can even smell sugar cookies baking and catch a whiff of simmering wassail.  Is that a mince pie?  Perhaps.

The malls are decked with boughs of holly, fa la la la la la la la la.

It’s October 29, two days before Halloween.

With the appearance of Santa, by sleigh, train or helicopter, comes the annual litany of complaints.  “They’ve taken Christ out of Christmas.”  “It has lost its meaning.”  “It’s too commercial, just another way for merchants to make money.”  Looking at the reverse of that particular coin, it is possible to see “Christmas in October” as a commercial rather than as being too commercial.  No matter how secular the packaging, how politically correct the wording, the message of the malls is the joy of Christmas – and Christmas is Christ’s birthday.  Think of the publicity.  Few churches could afford it, could find a way to obtain it.

Also frequently heard is, “It’s better to make donations (to Save the Whales, perhaps) than buy gifts for one another.”  Nothing wrong with donations or, for that matter, with whales, but better than spending time, thought and, yes, money, on selecting the perfect gift for someone, a gift chosen with love and care?  I beg to differ – and vote for giving the best we have to offer in commemoration of the Wise Men’s gifts to Him.   And not just our Christmas gifts.  Our gifts to God and in aid of others – money, time and talents — should be the best we have to offer, as well, a widow’s mite (Luke 21: 1 – 4) given from the heart.  “…God loves a cheerful giver.”  (II Corinthians 9:7 – RSV)

As for the glitz and glitter of Christmas, a sense of wonder will imbue them with the true magic and beauty of the season.   Look around next time you visit the mall, feel the excitement, see smiles warm with the knowledge that once again God is coming into the world and our waiting hearts.  Let’s take time to enjoy – and to share it, not just in December, not even starting in October, but year round.

Start, perhaps, by remembering the Christmases of childhood, how good you felt when Mom loved that clay handprint (it still hangs on her kitchen wall), when Dad put all his coins into the pouch you wove from strips of red and green leather.  Recall, too, the excitement of opening all your presents, the ones from family and friends and those from Santa.  Isn’t that how you learned the joy of giving, that Christmas is for giving and giving feels great?  That it isn’t the size of the gift but the love invested in it that matters?  After all, great things come in small packages.  Think of God’s gift to us, a tiny babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  He gave us His best.  Jesus is, indeed, the reason for the season, a season we make even more joyous by embellishing its spirit with generosity, its wonder with love.

Take time, too, to enjoy the little pluses of the holiday season – a cheery “Merry Christmas” from a passing stranger, neighborhoods transformed into “Candy Cane Lanes,” the lilting beauty of beloved carols, the energy of packed churches, the holiday-induced graciousness that makes “hitting the freeway” less harried, mall hopping an extravaganza of visual delights.

Rediscover the magic, the wonder, the joy, the love.  Celebrate the birth of Christ.

Merry Christmas!

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