I am getting tired of this. The so-called holiday commercials that are currently inundating the airwaves have already started to get on my nerves. I suppose what irks me most is the fact that these commercials really have nothing to do with the “holy day” (holiday) of Christmas, but in fact companies use this special time to convince people to spend their money on things they don’t need. And for the most part, it works.
Of course these coercive commercials do so much more than just advertise; they manipulate. They send deeply deceptive messages, banking on the fact that we will spend our funds on their product, in an effort to have a more fulfilling Advent season.
Here are a few advertisements that exemplify what I’m talking about.
1. A Levi’s Jeans commercial I heard on the radio starts out by saying, “Treat your family better than ever, with a pair of Levi’s Jeans.” Because that’s what any good marriage and family counselor will tell you keeps a family together: quality denim.
2. K-Mart decided to go with this slogan for their holiday campaign. Apparently, K-Mart is not just the source for Joe Boxer. They provide Christmas too.
3. And this one from Audi really gets under my skin. Not only does it make a mockery of generosity–after they see the new Audi, passersby drop the keys to their luxury cars in the donation box, as if to say, “Here, poor people. Take my Lexus. I won’t be needing it anymore.”–but it attempts to make people who already drive luxury vehicles feel discontented and go for a “better” one. And it’s cleverly and humorously done. See for yourself.
What’s the problem with these commercials and others like them? The problem is they are full of lies. Giving jeans shows you really care? You need to go to a store to experience Christmas more fully? The spirit of Christmas giving has been replaced with the spirit of Christmas dissatisfaction? No, this can’t be. And I’m begging you (and preaching to myself as well) not to believe the Christmas lies. Don’t believe the lies that say your Christmas experience hinges on the deals you find. Don’t believe the lies that label you a bad parent/spouse/friend/sibling if you don’t buy the right presents. Don’t believe the lies that say Christmas is a time to spoil yourself into debt. And don’t believe the lies that scream in your face like a crazy parrot who’s been listening to N’Sync, “Buy! Buy! Buy!”
Am I a Grinch? Do I loathe this season, like pre-transformation Ebenezer Scrooge?
Actually, I am a sucker for this time of year in my own way. Last week, I commenced with what has become tradition for me: the day after Thanksgiving I couldn’t wait to bring our holiday stuff out of storage, and as soon as I could I played some of my favorite Christmas albums. I have my own parents to thank for this tradition of enthusiasm over the start of Christmas season, and I was excited that this year I could continue it with my own kids. Admittedly, I would much prefer getting lost in this part of the Christmas season over getting lost in the mall.
But even as I relished every moment, I took opportunities to remind my family and myself that this–yes, even the warm glow of lights and happy feeling of well-loved holiday tunes–are not what Christmas is about, in its essence. In truth, Christmas has nothing at all to do with the toys, the decorations, the shopping, the songs. I’m not against commerce, and I plan on having gifts for my loved ones come the morning of December 25th. I am not against merriment, and I fully intend to plug in my lights every night and keep listening to my favorite Christmas songs. (Please, no “Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart.” Thanks.)
But what if I had no money? What if there were no lights? What if I couldn’t hear? What if I didn’t live near a K-Mart? Could I still experience the meaning of Christmas, in its fulness? If Christmas has nothing to do with any of those things, then what is left?
Christmas has everything to do with this: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
And this: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel. (Which means ‘God with us.’)” (Matthew 1:23)
Or, if you like, here is how Linus from “Peanuts” lays it out.
All the lights and songs and gifts, and the excitement that can go along with them, are all like party favors for a grander event. And the real celebration, the truth that transcends all the lies, is that there is something so much more than the yearly frantic and futile grab for happiness. God came close, in the humblest way imaginable, and this God is never going to leave us. No matter what. And that’s for everyone, everywhere, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or age. That is something I can believe in. That is someone I can celebrate.
And with that I joyously say, “Let the (true) Christmas season begin.”