A Hollow Christmas

I recently saw an article which asked the question, “Why are there no modern classic Christmas Songs?” There is one short answer for this question, “Most people have nothing to celebrate”. The simple fact is many people do not celebrate Jesus at Christmas and so December 25th has lost its importance. To illustrate my point, I remember a somewhat heated exchange I had with a woman in 2016 who believed, “We should cancel Sunday morning worship so people could celebrate Christmas with their families.” The Church, the family created by Jesus, should cease celebrating his life, death, and resurrection so people can celebrate his birth as individuals? What she was saying is that a worship service hampered her Christmas festivities. Further evidence for my point is a meme I have seen circulating (sadly by some Christians) which says something like, “Turns out all the magic I experienced at Christmas was just how much my mom loved me.” This is a sad expression of an empty celebration. Unfortunately, I think this is the growing perspective of many Americans.

I was a teenager the first time I notice that Christmas movies and music ended at noon on Christmas day and I questioned why. Then it struck me, because kids have opened their presents and it is time to move on. As I have grown I have come to realize that the reason scholars say Americans are truly Deists is because the true religion of America is Capitalism and only a deist god can truly be worshiped within this religion. I know right now some readers will be tempted to check out because they are under the impression that Capitalism is simply an economic structure and our only options for economic structures are Capitalism or Socialism/Communism– neither of which are true. For evidence of this fact, read articles from the early days of the pandemic where individuals cared about “the economy” (translate the stock market) and not people’s incomes or ability to live. Capitalism is an ideology with sets of right behaviors and even a mythology. I find it very ironic that we as Americans are taught that Communism is an ideology or religion, but we fail to recognize this about our own systems. And in America today we are presented with the celebration of the Capitalist christmas– the feast at the end of the year where we used our accrued wealth to push the economy to new heights. It has become a holiday which has no intrinsic meaning, only the meaning an individual gives it. One truly celebrates this holiday by spending too much on food, presents, merriment, and useless decorations (think ugly sweaters). There are no rules to this holiday so long as everyone contributes generously to the economy.

The Capitalist christmas focuses on the economy. The Capitalist christmas revolves around how sales were during the fourth quarter. It focuses on major economic booms like sporting events, or major Hollywood movies. This is precisely why Christmas songs and movies end at noon on Christmas, there’s nothing left to sell. Look closely at recent movies, Santa is the focal point of the movies and he is depicted as a CEO over a Fortune 500 company. This christmas is about bolstering the economy and it is why there are no “modern classic” Christmas songs, because at its core it is hollow. This christmas is about hypeing sales rather than about any true celebrations. Even the parties which result and the presents under the tree are merely consequences of the marketing rather than a true celebration. We buy into this christmas so long as we are excited by lights and presents, but the instant these things fade so does this christmas. Hence people post about their fond memories of Christmas but do not see the joy in celebrating today. There is no joy because there is no meaning or purpose.

I do not know if it is true to say most Americans are Capitalists and not Christian; I think it is accurate to say, the overwhelming majority of Americans are caught between the two competing claims.This is why I was involved in the conversation in 2016, the woman I was talking with wanted to celebrate a Christmas of presents and frivolity more than a Christmas focused on Jesus. Christians want the gift-giving, the food, the laughter, and merriment; but we want these things to stem from our joy over the birth of Jesus. Many Christians find a difficulty, though, because we are so saturated with the Capitalist Christmas and for some December 25th brings burnout. We are irritated by the tired Christmas songs, sappy Christmas movies, and repetitive commercials. By the time we taste the rich food we are wiped, and the result is that even well meaning and good-intentioned Christians have difficulty remembering to Christmas is about more than presents for little kids. This after all is the plot of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”So many love that classic but so few pick up on the fact that Linus is the character we should be emulating. The one individual who removes the commercialization and focuses on Jesus. Stop what you are doing on December 25th and ask yourself if you are burnt-out on Christmas. Your answer will probably tell you which Christmas you are really celebrating.

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