Thursday, December 18, 2008

Does Your Gift-Giving Shine?

Now we down here in the lower counties are not known for our quick wits, our fast pace, or our techno-savvy. But, we do have a set of fundamental values and good-natured integrity that makes us unique from the rest of the state.

We all learned the song back in Sunday School.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna' let it shine...

But does it shine when and where it matters most?

I recently watched the movie "What Would Jesus Buy," an indie documentary film produced in part by Morgan Spurlock, the man who criticized America's fast food culture in his film "Super Size Me." This time, the sights are set clearly on American consumerism and the way that it prevents us from truly celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. The main focus of the film is the exploits of Reverend Billy, a tongue-in-cheek evangelist with his own back-up chorale, as he tours (er, gets thrown out of) shopping malls across the country to promote his message. That message? Stop Shopping!

Now, I'm not here to tell you that I agree wholeheartedly with his message or his methods. But, I think there's more than a little truth in the intent and sentiment behind the circus act that is "Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping." And it's not all about Christmas.

For retailers, product manufacturers, and advertisers, the concept of giving gifts at Christmastime has become just another way to sucker us into buying whatever crap they're peddling this year. Remember how you just had to buy your kid that Cabbage Patch Kid in the 80s? And little Timmy just had to have that Playstation in the 90s. And now your tweeny-bopper just has to have that iPhone this year, right? I mean, it just wouldn't be Christmas if your kid didn't have the newest and greatest! Pshhhh.

Let's take a step back and reassess before we make with all the credit-card swiping.

Is our gift-buying and gift-giving a bad thing? I think the clear answer is no. We offer gifts to our loved ones and friends to demonstrate our affection and love for them. Most of us couldn't whittle a toothpick--let alone manufacture an XBox--with our own tools and our bare hands, so we pay money to someone else who can. That's the way our economy works in these modern times and, in moderation, it can be a wonderful thing to make a child's eyes light up on Christmas morning with fun toys and new clothes bought at the mall or store.

But, can our obsession with "buying things" for people pervert the spirit of the season? Absolutely! When we buy lots of expensive things for our kids or loved ones because, "well, that's just what you do on Christmas," then I think we lose a lot of the meaning behind the gift-giving act. The kings each brought Jesus a gift that expressed their own sincere feelings for their new "King." And, they each brought only one gift. Only three gifts!? Yup, just three. If three presents is enough for the Christ baby, it's good enough for our little imps.

And the debt factor is another thing. The kings brought Jesus gifts that they could afford. There was no Visa, no Mastercard, and no Discover. What they could not make themselves or afford in cash they did not purchase. So should we also be able to buy and give gifts that we can afford.

All of us should take stock in our own talents and skills, the "gifts" given to us by our Creator from our birth. With these we should try to fashion the gifts that we give each other, made by our own hands as He made us. This is the highest and best way for our light to shine upon those we adore and upon the world.

For everything else, there's Mastercard. I'm Kidding, I'm kidding. Just use your credit responsibly and get your kids to appreciate a small number of gifts that you can afford to give them this year...who knows what next year may bring.

BTW, you can find Revered Billy's site here.

1 comment:

Shirley Vandever said...

Great post ! I haven't been into the whole Christmas consumerism extravaganza for at least five years. I find it all very stupid.

I just enjoy the time spent with my admittedly small family and time off from work ! We got each other a few small things, but overall, between home and my Dad and such I didn't spend over $100.

And I didn't charge anything.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.