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COMMENTARY

Missing the Reason for the Season

By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director

CBN.com - I did it. I just had to get it out of my system. For the first time this Christmas season I entered a mall. Not out of necessity mind you but out of a desire to experience the hustle bustle, the baubles and beads, and the cha-ching of whirring cash registers. I actually enjoy being jostled and bumped in the closed confines of a candle shop. I like seeing scores of people lined up at the movie theater to purchase tickets for "Enchanted ". I am even amused by the vacant stares of people as they trudge through the hallways of corporate America in an almost robotic fashion.

Unfortunately, my adventures in Yuletide mall hopping nearly ended this Christmas season. With the advent of the Internet, my wife decided that this year we would not need to set foot in a mall. All of our Christmas shopping needs would be taken care of online. In theory this was a wonderful idea. We could just point and click our way to Christmas gift giving bliss. And we did. However, there were some slight problems. Number one, the human interaction that I enjoy had been taken out of the Christmas shopping season. Secondly, we now receive approximately 17 catalogues in our mailbox each day. If you ever need anything pottery, wicker, or 1960's retro-toy related just let me know.

Christmas shopping season at the mall is poetic ballet to me. It is a collection of people from all walks of life coming together in the pursuit of making their families and friends lives just a little more joyous, a chance to make life a bit more warm and fuzzy, and the opportunity to go deeper into debt.

Allow me to illustrate. I warn you, what I am about to write is far from the endearing images made famous in Norman Rockwell paintings. As I was standing by a Victoria's Secret listening to a gospel choir perform "Mary Did You Know" on the mall's performance stage (that is a contrast if I ever heard one), I couldn't help but overhear a couple having a heated argument. Their discussion went something like this:

Margo: Look Todd, you can't just buy the first thing that you see when you enter a store.

Todd: I'm not just buying the first thing I see. I just want to get this over with so we can go home.

Margo: You need to understand. Christmas is not about buying. Christmas is about shopping.

Todd: Whatever. Let's just get this done.

Christmas is about shopping not buying. While a novel concept to some, sadly, it does not even remotely match the true meaning of Christmas. As I listened to this couple bicker I asked myself how has the meaning of Christmas been reduced to shopping? Did I miss something while sitting at home ordering Christmas presents from my laptop computer?

Before I could completely sift through these questions within the intellectual recesses of my mind I remembered I needed to meet my wife, who had come along on my adventure to purchase a gift she had been unable to find online. As I bobbed and weaved through the mass of humanity, I happened upon another situation to ponder.

Extricating herself from one of those merchandise carts that are found in the hallways of most American shopping malls, a young woman stepped toward me and said in a bold, confident voice, "Sir, can I ask you a question?"

My first reaction was to snootily say no and scurry along on my way but for some reason I decided to stop and listen to her sales pitch. I replied, "Yes, but only if I can ask you a question after you ask me a question?" In hindsight, this young salesperson probably thought I was trying to ask her out on a date but she continued anyway.

"Have you ever considered buying something for your wife that will last forever?"

Before I could respond with a witty reply she said, "Allow me to introduce you to the High Plains Buffalo Hide purse. It is constructed of the most durable yet supple, water resistant, leather in the world. Do you know what it is made of?"

With a hint of sarcasm in my voice I answered, "Buffalo?"

"Why yes, buffalo," she said. "We take the finest buffalo hides from the southwest, tan them, and then double their thickness to insure it will never wear out. Our purses come in brown, black, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

She had lost me. As she spoke, I began thinking about the questions I posed earlier regarding whether Christmas is about shopping or buying. I politely let her finish her sales pitch before I replied.

"I'm sorry, I am really not interested. It sounds like a really fine product but I have already completed my Christmas shopping for all of the women in my life."

She smiled and was about to launch into Plan B of her pre-programmed speech when I interjected, "Can I ask you my question now?" Before she could respond I continued. "Do you know what the reason for the season is?"

"What do you mean?" she hesitantly responded.

"You know, what is the reason we celebrate Christmas?"

"Ohhh, why do we celebrate Christmas?" she nodded in shallow recognition of my query. "Well, I guess it is a time where everyone is nicer to each other, we buy each other presents, and we celebrate Santa Claus. It is just a nice time of year."

I nodded in disbelief, not believing what I was hearing. I asked, "Hey, have you heard the choir that is singing down at the performance stage by Victoria's Secret? You should go down and listen to them. Really good music but more importantly a fantastic message."

She stared at me with a blank expression on her face, indicating she had absolutely no idea why I was suggesting she go listen to the gospel choir. I looked back at her as I was leaving and said, "Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas."

In Luke 2:10-12 says, "But the angel reassured them. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord, has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize Him: you will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!"

Furthermore, in Matthew 2:10-11 we see more evidence of the reason for the season. It says, "When they (the three wise men) saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

Christmas is a time to celebrate and honor Jesus by rejoicing in our salvation. Why then is there such a disconnect? The answer is quite plain. With each passing year this sacred holiday becomes more and more secularized. Various groups decry nativity scenes in public places, people grouse over the singing of Christmas carols in shopping areas, and many Christians, yes Christians, are disturbingly indifferent to the rapid decay of the holiest of holidays.

Are you indifferent regarding the true reason for the season? Christmas is a time to define your beliefs as a Christian. If you truly do believe that Jesus Christ was sent to this earth, born of a virgin, to save us from our sins, let somebody know about it. Doing so will make a difference in not only other peoples lives but will galvanize your own.

Tell me what you think

Material from The Transformer, study Bible used in this article.

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