Spirit of Christmas

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

November 29, 2005


            Every year about this time the entrance to our church is filled with people selling things.

            The Knights of Columbus are there with their cards. The Boy Scouts sell citrus fruit. The social concerns committee is things from cooperatives in poor countries. The Ladies Club is selling handicrafts. Our youth group is selling sweat shirts. On and on.

            About this time of year I have a dream of myself standing before the Lord at my judgment. He has a whip in his hand. The one He used to drive the money changers out of temple. He says to me, “My house shall be a house of prayer. You have made it into a shopping mall.”

            I know all the sales are for good causes. I really do support them. Often I do my own Christmas shopping right there in the back of church. These groups would not be able operate without funds.

            But, what kind of spirit are we creating? What kind of message we are sending about our preparation for Christmas.

            I don’t like the fact that commercialism invades sacred precincts.

            Outside of church things are even worse.

            The pictures on television this year of “black Friday”, (the day after Thanksgiving) were disgusting. People trampled each other getting into Wal-mart. Adults fought over the latest video game for their children. People shoved each other out of the way to get to big screen TVs.

            This is crazy.

            What are we thinking? What are we worshipping?

            Have material things become so important to us that we will slug it out over them in stores? Do we worship stuff so much that we will trample each other to get to it?

            They make lots of these things folks. There will be another shipment tomorrow. What about the church?

            Is there no space preserved free of commercialism?

            I know that every year we decry materialism. This is the cliché column. But we really ought to put some thought into this.

            What kind of spirit do we want to have as we approach Christmas?

            Maybe a spirit of generosity and self-sacrifice would be better than a spirit of greed.

            Maybe we could do a couple of things in preparation for Christmas that would be a good remind us of the spirit of Christ.

            First, we could have a weekly “shopping fast.” That is a day when we buy nothing. With proper planning, this should be easy.

            We should do this one day a week anyway.  A shopping “fast” would discipline us to be “poor in spirit” like the Lord wants.

            Every Sunday used to be a “shopping fast.”  Our culture seems to have completely forgotten about the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day. As we approach Christmas we could add a second day of fasting from buying. On those days we could write Christmas cards, decorate the house, visit friends, or do a little spiritual reading. We could even pray or rest. Do anything that would say we do not worship more stuff.

            Second, we could decide not to a lot of stuff. Give time instead. Do some one a favor.

            For example, this year a friend did me a big favor by winterizing my brother’s mobile home. It saved me a whole day’s labor. The gift of time was much more appreciated than any thing would have been.

            In the Church, too, maybe we should dial it back a bit. Do we really need to sell all that stuff?

            The Lord might prefer simpler programs and less commercialism.

            It is worth asking ourselves, what kind of spirit do we want to create as we approach Christmas?