I was reading an article online about a local homeless family when I came across this comment:
“We have a woman sleeping on the sidewalk in our neighborhood while all the good christians put the lights up in their annual display of waste. Arent’t [sic] they supposed to take the homeless in? Or is that a part of their bible they choose to ignore?”
The author’s point, I suppose, is that all those d0-gooder Christians out there may talk a good game about helping those in need, but the presence of a homeless family in our community serves to point out the hypocrisy of the church community, which would rather spend gobs of money on gaudy Christmas displays than reach out to the poor. Putting aside the obvious hostility toward Christians (the article didn’t mention Christians or even hint at any religious issues), does the author raise a fair criticism?
At one level, I would say no. The point of Christmas for many professing Christians is to celebrate the incarnation of God himself in the person of Jesus. That’s a massively important event — one of the few most significant events in all history — and many Christians rightfully use it as an occasion to draw in to worship God. The Bible doesn’t provide any outright prohibition against showing some extravagance in our worship. To the contrary, Jesus showed that extravagance in worship can be very pleasing to God when it comes from a heart of love. When Mary broke and “wasted” her very expensive jar of perfume to annoint Jesus’ feet, Jesus blessed her act of love and rejected the idea that the perfume should have been sold instead to provide for the poor. John 12:3-8.
At another level, though, I think the author may have a point. We can get pretty caught up in the spirit of the season (not to mention the spirit of keeping up with the Joneses) between lights for the outside of the house, trees and bushes, moving reindeer, all manner of inflatable characters, decorations for inside the home, a Christmas tree, lights, ornaments and whatnot for the tree, Christmas presents (don’t forget the stocking stuffers!), Christmas music, events and parties. Speaking of trees, what kind do you get? Fake? If so, do you get the expensive pre-lighted model? Real? If so, what kind — do you spend the extra money to get the noble fir? How big is big enough?
At some point, it all can get a little silly. If I pony up a bunch of cash for neon “NOEL” display (complete with flying angels, of course), am I being extravagant in my worship of Jesus, or am I doing it for more selfish reasons? And, more to the author’s point, am I doing all of these Christmas-y things to the exclusion of reaching out and showing Christ’s love to the poor around me?
I think we Christians should examine what we’re doing this Christmas season and make sure that it comes from a heart of love and worship for God, whether we choose to cover our home with a gazillion lights and decorations or not. And, whatever else we do this season, let’s be sure to remind and encourage each other to “remember the poor, the very thing [we are] eager to do.” Gal. 2:10.