We heard a sermon a week ago last Sunday (the last time we made it to church) about two ways to have a God-centered Christmas [mp3 link to the sermon here]. The first of them was the boring old "stop shopping so much and just be spiritual" thing that we hear every year, but the second—which was explained at somewhat greater length—was a suggestion to celebrate more wholeheartedly and demonstratively. Decorate like mad! Ply people with food and gifts! Go, in other words, all out! For some people, the theory goes, being fully involved in the holiday is the way to have a spiritual season and "the Best Christmas Possible". Since that was what I think anyways, I enjoyed the sermon.
The theory behind the minimalist Christmas is that celebrating the birth of Christ shouldn't be a commercial extravaganza. Sure, I can agree with that. The Christmas music playing at Whole Foods before Thanksgiving got to me too. But the yearly refrain about making Christmas a quiet family time or whatever misses a very important point. From my point of view, the problem isn't that Christmas is too commercial, it's that the rest of the year is.
Me, I hearken back to an era when Christmas might be the only time you got something store-bought: a bag of oranges or a new pair of trousers or something from the Sears catalog. That was exciting! We're too jaded now, on account of the constant instant gratification of the mall, but the solution isn't to abandon celebrating Christmas by giving presents, it's to abandon going to the mall the rest of the year! Do that, and you'll be ready from some shopping come December.
And spiritual warm-fuzzies are all well and good, but there's something to be said for tangible tokens of affection for family, friends, and neighbors. You don't have to be greedy to be excited about opening presents. And if you like giving as much as getting, I don't think you have anything to worry about in the spiritual department. At least for me, exchanging gifts brings me closer to people, and being closer to people is one way to be closer to God.
On that note, here's our holiday wish list if you want to get closer to God by giving us something!