My wife and I recently saw the movie, What Would Jesus Buy? It’s a brilliant spoof of all that Christmas has become for millions of people trapped in the shopping frenzy that is the silly season. The film follows Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir throughout the United States as they try to help consumers open their eyes to the madness that they are participating in every December.

One of the scenes that captured me the most in this movie was when the choir would roll up to the front door of unsuspecting families and start singing their carols. How nice you might say, until you heard the brilliantly farcical take on some well known lyrics. Take their version of Joy to the World:

“Joy to the World!

In the Form of Goods!

Consume! Consume! Consume!

Bright Plastics This and That’s!

For Screaming Little Brats!

Take the SUV to the Mall

Take the SUV to the Mall”

The unfortunate truth is that these words are a more accurate description of Christmas for most Australians than the traditional lyrics of this beautiful carol.

I’m not even sure if Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir claim to be Christians but they sure get the message across that we have done something terrible to this wonderful time of year when it is all about clamouring all over the person in front of you to get that special bargain.

What Would Jesus Buy? shows how far we have digressed from, not only what Christmas is all about, but also the origins of Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas. How ironic it is that Saint Nicholas, a young man raised by Christian parents in the 3rd century in what is now Turkey, was known for taking literally Jesus’ words to “sell all you have and give the money to the poor”. It is documented that

“Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children”.

Many centuries later, the memory of Saint Nicholas and his beautiful spirit is as unfamiliar as snow in an Australian summer. The fact is that the majority of parents in this country now dread Christmas because of the stress it creates in terms of what on earth to buy the kids this year.

How different all this is to the God who came as a babe in a manger, relegated to a smelly stable out the back because there was no room for his parents at the inn. At this time of year we celebrate a God who came as a person, a God who made the ultimate sacrifice to involve himself in the poverty and oppression of what is life for much of this planet’s population. As my pastor pointed out this week, from the time Jesus was born he was hunted. Forced to flee as a refugee to a foreign land, resulting in the deaths of all boys in the Bethlehem region aged under 2 years, Jesus’ days were numbered from a very young age.

Christmas for so many is a painful time, and for many others it is a joyful time, and for others still it is a time of stress they could well do without. If it is a painful time for you, then remember the One who came to stand beside you in your pain, the One who understands what it is to be rejected, to have nothing, and to be told he doesn’t belong in his own neighbourhood. If Christmas is a joyful time for you, then thank the One who gave all he had to come and eat at table with us, to offer us grace upon grace, even when, no, especially when, that is the very thing we do not deserve. And if you can’t wait for Christmas to be over so you can relax, then allow yourself to be set free by giving yourself this Christmas. May your gift be in the form of love and community, and gifts that have meaning.  Your gifts may be in the form of a goat or literacy skills through TEAR, World Vision or a number of other aid organisations. The options are endless, and you may just find that you are giving to Jesus himself. May you have a meaningful Christmas, filled with the Spirit of the Christ who gives to all without measure.

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