It's Christmas, which means it's time for preachers to dust off all our over-wrought complaints about people spending too much money on gifts. Yes, our proclivity to spend big in December will forever be a stark contrast to the meager entry of Jesus into this world. And yes, we often give gifts blindly without thinking about where they come from, whether they're actually needed, or if we can afford them. But I think we preachers often misconstrue Christmas gifts as an expression of faith, which they aren't. Binge giving is a cultural expression as American as Apple Pie and is more like waving a flag on the fourth than emulating the three kings. Besides, I love presents. Two years ago I gave my son, who was three months old at the time and could barely hold his head up, a Specialized mountain bike. Was it extravagant? Yes. Did it sit collecting dust for two years? Yes. Do I care? No.
Does this mean the church should not critique culture? Absolutely not. If we stopped, I'd be out of a job and the church would deny it's charter. After all, Jesus was a viscous commentator of his culture. But there is something about the screeds from church pulpits vilifying gift giving at Christmas that's a little disingenuous and easy. I spend money all year on stuff I don't need. So, it's hard for me as a preacher to get worked up enough in December to castigate people for a problem I deal with all year. The pernicious affects of consumerism last well beyond Christmas morning. What do we have to say about that?