Bah! Humbug!


It’s Christmastime again.   Besides music, colored lights, trees sprouting indoors, and avalanching sweets, there’s another cue to the season: snide comments about commercialism.

Commercialism is a real problem. I don’t deny that.   Humanity’s loyalty has long been divided between God and mammon (Matt. 6:24). As they say, nothing is sacred. Consumption and material lust can swallow up the spirituality of the season.

A famous literary character was also a big critic of yuletide commercialism: Ebenezer Scrooge.   Near the beginning of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, comes to visit Scrooge in his counting house.   Fred wishes Scrooge a merry Christmas and invites him to Christmas dinner. Scrooge cannot hide his disdain. While debating the merits of Christmas, Scrooge observes, “What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money…?” Fred counters, “There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say…Christmas among the rest.”

Scrooge’s sneering comments about the liberality of Christmas are familiar. They are close cousins to the cynical critiques of commercialism today. The charge is easy to level. Finding fault with the financial feeding frenzy of Feliz Navidad feels right and often is right.

That said, there’s something Scrooge and the cheap-skates taking cheap shots at Christmas should consider:

Christ’s birth was announced with a choir of angels. Shepherds took the night off to honor Him. Kings arrived with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. OK, the whole thing went down in a stable. But that homely wrapping held the greatest gift of all: God’s only Son, given to die for all people. Christmas, at its core, is a lavish, wasteful affair.

And this makes me wonder: Are Scrooge and other heralds of thrift offended by something besides overspending? Maybe snipes about commercialism veil disgust with Jesus—One so liberal He gave Himself and every drop of His holly-red blood to us.

Sometimes, over-the-top gift giving is just that. But I also see God’s cornucopic nature spilling out with no regard for our petty judgments about proportion.

Our too-generous God is perfectly represented in A Christmas Carol by the ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge first hears the voice of this spirit calling him from another room. When Scrooge enters the room, the spirit is seated on a throne of “turkeys, geese…sucking pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince pies…cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges…cakes” and many other foods.   When he sees Scrooge, the ghost exclaims, “Come in! Come in and know me better, man!”

This is the Lord’s invitation to Scrooge and to all whose hearts are two sizes too small.  The Lord can’t help Himself.  He can’t help being generous, even to His critics.  May we all know the open-handed, proffligate Spirit of Christ-mas better this season!

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