It is often expressed among Christians and pastors that the commercializing of Christmas is incompatible with Christmas. As one pastor blogged: "Each year Americans spend billions of dollars on material items at Christmas. That is a pretty weird way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who gave up all of his riches to save the world."
Now I am all about putting things in balance and setting my views on truth. So let me first define some terms. Commercialism is the emphasis on the maximizing of profit through sales and services. This is the case whether you are the business owner or the employee. Who isn't seeking to make a profitable return on their labor. This is just practical economics. Materialism, however, is more of a belief system with a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values. In otherwords, it is a living to have possessions and a belief that having posessions brings comfort and peace. Now this can lead to greed and even harm on others to fill that greed.
As you see these are two are differnt terms though I can see how a person might think they are one of the same. But realize that we can not have a prospering society without commercialism. No family, town, or country can advance economically and even in the areas of health and safety without the benefits of commercialism. Comercialism was as much a part of the economy in Biblical times as it is today in our world. So there is no real conflict with scripture or our faith. It is when it commercialism becomes materiaism and posssesions become more important than a faith in God and a compassion for others. Bascially the Great Commandment of Matthew 22:35-40.
So lets consider the blog quote shared in the first paragraph. Is spending hard earned dollars during Christmas time contrary to the birth of Christ? To answer this we must ask, "What riches did Jesus give up?" The verse, I believe, that was eluded to in the blog quote was Paul writing in 2Corinthians 8:9.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."
The context of the verse is that Paul is encouraging the church of Corinth to give to the needs of Believers experiencing famine in Judea. So first, the context is not about poor in general but about the Body of Christ ministering to its members who are hurting due to a shortage of food caused by a shortage of water. Now I do not mean to say that we are not to consider or reach out to the poor for the teaching of Jesus clearly expresses our place to do so in Matthew 21:31-46. But I am saying that the blogger did not do a proper exegesis of the verse and so used it out of context.
The what riches did Jesus give up? Is Paul speaking about him become materialistically poor? Unlikely since the pre-incarnate Christ had no earhly posesssions or risches before his coming. Consider this as well. If poor meant materially poor then our becoming rich would then means for us to become materially rich (So enter the prosperity message). So Paul couldn't be speaking of poor in an earthly materialistic way. How was Jesus rich before he came? He was rich in that he was eternal, unattached to the frailty and weakness of man but was equal to God in glory and worthy of all honor and worship. As Paul also teaches in Philippians 2:5-8, rather than coming as one deserving of being served he came as a humble servant.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."
So Jesus becoming poor was to be a humble servant, to do the will of the Father and be obedient even to the cross for the benefit of sinful man. Paul then uses the Lord's example of servanthood to encourage the saints in Corinth to humbly serve their brothers in need. But in his encouragement to the Corinthians he balanced his words with practical advice. Return to 2Corinthians 8:12-14 with me.
"For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack--that there may be equality."
So Paul was not encouraging our becoming poor for the sake of others but to give from what he calls "your abundance." However, he isn't promoting materialism either but to have a mind of charity and be ready to share what you have with those less fortunate and for those who have been helped to also help others when they are able. He is not promoting equality in what you own but in equality of service to others.
One other thing to consider. What would happen if everyone said, "Forget this commercialism at Christmas, its sacrilegious and an insult to why Jesus came!" What would happen to our economy? How many people would loose their jobs and become poor? How might it affect your job and then affect your abundance? So is it really wrong or even immoral to use your abundance to purchase gifts on Christmas? Or to show your love to family members or appreciation to co-workers with those gifts? Is it un-Christ-like to purchase a feast for your family and friends to gather as one around the dinner table? Not likely. Also, consider that your bearing gifts is a wonderful way of showing the love of Jesus and on a day that we celebrate his birth, all the more.
But that materialism, now that is a wrong road to travel for the Christian and one we left when we came to believe in and trust in Jesus Christ.
I pray that Christ blessed you and prosper you and lead you in your charity given from your abundance on His behalf, each and every day of the eyar and not just Christmas.