Amidst the twinkling lights, snowmen, and the aromas of a Christmas kitchen, there seems to me an expanding emptiness during the holidays. As a child in Northport, Alabama, I recall the smell of a live Christmas tree in our living room. I would lay beneath its limbs like a giant Christmas present and watch the gentle glow of the lights. Mom would call me to help with the Christmas cookies, although my “help” was probably the last thing she needed. She would let me roll out the cookie dough using an old wooden rolling pin. Then, she would carefully guide me as used the cookie cutters to make Santas, reindeer, and Christmas trees. I remember aunts, uncles, and cousins coming to our home for a great banquet. I don’t remember the food so much as I recall the laughter and love that adorned our table. There were gifts aplenty, but they were almost the afterthought. Our main reason for shopping was to see the decorations at Woolworth’s, Sears-Roebuck. and the Buick dealership.
It’s different now. Have you noticed?
Many writers better than me have bemoaned the descent of the holidays into a commerce laden period of buying and selling. But I am thinking of something slightly different. How do you feel when you cannot meet the standard set by advertisers for the best Christmas gift? Ads run the spectrum from a Bob Ross Chia Pet to the “Cadillac you’ve always wanted.” What if you still can’t buy that Cadillac? What if you’re so broke you can’t even pay attention? Do the holidays become less important to you? They shouldn’t.
It may be that you feel empty because you do not have, nor can you obtain, enough stuff. It seems the emptiness can only be filled by purchased items.
There is hope because the Bible teaches otherwise. When Peter and John encountered a lame man at the Temple (Acts 3:1 ff), they gave him something greater than silver and gold (Acts 3:6). Money could not buy the happiness that filled him after his healing (vs. 8).
Solomon, endowed with extraordinary wealth and wisdom, tried to find happiness in possessions. His conclusions? He said, “all was vanity and a striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). The condition of a man with every possession, but unable to enjoy his wealth, is described as a “grievous evil” (Ecclesiastes 6:2). In summation, Solomon concludes that the whole duty of man is to “fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Jesus says it better in Matthew 6:33, “seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” The secret of a fulfilled and happy life is found in serving and giving to others. Jesus said, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
Try as they might, advertisers cannot supplant Jesus as the giver of a full life. They tell us that happiness comes in a new car, diamonds, video games, and such. They knowingly produce guilt to drive us to purchase more and more stuff; none of which satisfies for long.
Jesus, however, teaches the opposite. Try Jesus’ way and shun the advertiser’s claims. Stop! Listen! What do you hear? The sound of an advertiser’s jingle or the sound of a loving family? The latter, I pray.
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