The madness is upon us again. ’Tis the season to spend a fortune. To purchase our way into our children’s hearts. To fall for the manufacturers’ thinly veiled commercialism—O look, a new model just in time for Christmas! To inculcate our children with the notion that we get our identity from our stuff.
I have nothing against Christmas. I love it (when it comes—and not before then!). I’m not even going to suggest that we should remember the so-called ‘Reason for the Season’. I think the problems are far more foundational than a surface rejection of Jesus. I mean, what odds is it if we forget about Jesus at Christmas if we don’t pay him any attention the rest of the year—why be hypocrites?
On the other hand, what we do at Christmas often displays what really matters to us. So we buy a lot of stuff for our kids because, as adults, we get our identity from what we have. We get them the latest iPhone, the latest ‘in’ toy, the latest fashion accessory. Are any of these things wrong in themselves? Not at all. But in bestowing them on our children repeatedly, we confirm to them the lie that their identity is found in their stuff. And then we wonder why they grow up insecure in who they are in themselves—victims of social media anxiety. It’s because we have trained them to measure their worth by what they’ve got and how they appear to others.
And even though we have always got them the latest, the newest, the best—we still wonder why they grow up with a sense of entitlement!
Or we use stuff to compensate for what they really need and want—our attention and affection. We’ve been working too hard, we know they haven’t seen much of us, but here have the latest doll/iPad/flatscreen TV to see how much I love you. Do our children really think they can be bought with such shiny bribes? As years pass they learn to measure their love by what they’re given. And then we wonder why they grow up to see love as some sort of contractual arrangement—‘If you love me, you will do this/give me this’. And too late we find coldness and distance creeping into our relationships.
These are not small matters. These are foundational to shaping and framing our children’s identity. And their identity will shape how they see life, how they respond to trials, disappointments and loss. What we do in December shapes them for January to November. And then repeat.
If all year we worship money and belongings, why stop at Christmas to remember Jesus? We have already chosen our saviour—the one who loves us, supplies what we need, brings us joy, secures our future, defines who we are. Behold you shall call his name Euro (or Dollar), for he shall save his people from their griefs.
Except that it doesn’t. The maddening pursuit of possessions will not save us but starve us—leaving us at the whim of every upgrade, and every recession. In teaching our children to hang their identity on what they have we set them up for a crashing fall. Only God is a strong enough hook to hang our identity, future and joy on. There is more to life than stuff. We are made to be more than consumers. But the lessons start well before Christmas.
What lessons are you teaching this Christmas?