Fight the urge to take Christ out of Christmas

  • December 13, 2011

Anyone who has been passing newsstands lately will have noticed that magazine covers aren’t what they used to be. They’re more showy and sensational, much different from days gone by.

At Christmastime especially I have noticed more magazines and advertisements shouting out “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” It drives me crazy.

My 86-year-old mother has also noticed this change. She made a comment the other day that made me pause.

“Magazine covers these days are suggesting to women that the answer to life is to indulge, gossip, lose weight, exercise and to get away from their families, travel, go to the spa and escape. Women are encouraged to go to extremes to decorate their houses, their lives and bodies with only the best brands, the best things.”  

What she described was a materialistic, hedonistic culture. I wondered if she was right. She continued:

“In my day, magazine covers encouraged hard work, sacrifice, virtue, service and prayer. When we were living under the threat of Hurricane Irene earlier this year, nowhere did you see journalists encouraging the country to pray. In Poland, when there is a national threat, a national tragedy, magazines, newspapers, television and radio journalists call everyone to prayer. There is something wrong with a country that does not call out collectively to its citizens to pray and ask God for help. It’s Christmastime now, so why aren’t we being called to pray? Instead we are being asked to spend, spend, spend!”

The Christmas season is heaven on Earth for retailers. A Statistics Canada report called “Christmas by the Numbers” reveals some eye-opening statistics about Canadian retail shopping in December. This month Canadians will spend more than $200 million on Christmas decorations, $4 billion on food and beverage, $1 billion in sporting and leisure goods, $840 million on television and audio products, $551 million on toys, games, hobby supplies and $243 million on CDs. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Many retailers would not stay in business without the tradition of Christmas gift giving. So Christ’s birth has become central to the strength of the economy. Retailers, operating in every city across the country — from the family owned variety store, to nationwide chains — provide jobs that help sustain millions of families. The celebration of Christ’s birth has blessed us in a very practical way.

What does all of this mean to me as a Catholic mother? First, it’s a sobering reminder that shopping within reason is good. It sustains our economy. But it is also an urgent call to remember that, as parents, we are called to evangelize and pray with our families, to deflect the crazy messages that are being sent to our children through a variety of media and marketing campaigns.

Amid all this, creating a home that resembles the home of the Holy Family in both spirit and style is no easy task. Reflecting on those numbers also made me think: does God care how we spend our money? Does God care if we buy a $3,000 television set but put five dollars into the weekly collection plate at church? Does God care if we spend the Canadian Christmas average of $1,203.98 but fail to purchase a single religious gift to honour Him? Does God care if we spend $375 on the finest wines, liqueurs and beer for a Christmas party but neglect to go to confession or Mass this Christmas? Does God care if I spend $100 to mail a beautiful customized Christmas card to family and friends, with no mention of Him or His mother?

I believe He does care. At all times, but particularly at Christmas, we are called to give not only to each other but to open our hearts to Jesus and Mary. That is the Christmas message you won’t find in magazines.

Finally, the way Christmas is depicted in the media is a reminder that, as a Catholic mother, I am at the forefront of a spiritual battle. My children are confronted by a secular culture that is doing its utmost to squeeze Christ out of Christmas. I don’t know about you, but I am going to fight that. With all my might!

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