Last week I thumbed through a glossy stacks of Christmas catalogs, each one boldly calling for my attention as they spilled from the narrow confines of my mailbox. My artist’s heart loves the displays and innovative photography that pique curiosity with their eye-catching beauty and unique arrangements.
But it was one beautifully scripted, lavishly arrayed page that caught my attention with its headline: One for you, two for me.
Of course, the idea of “doing something nice for you” or “get yourself a little something” over the holidays isn’t new. Last week I saw the first of many holiday themed car commercials: you’ve seen them too; cars with huge red bows greeted by an exuberantly surprised family member on Christmas morning. These will run for the next seven weeks and I wonder who the audience really is? How many people actually buy a new car as a gift? I’m also sure there are plenty of shoppers amassed on the sidewalks of Black Friday that don’t intend all of their purchases as gifts.
Yet this brightly titled page seemed a sly shift to me, taking the subtle distortion of Christmas just a bit further than I’d seen or heard before. I was actually shocked at the suggestion that I buy twice as much for myself as for those on my list. With a touch more marketing of this variety, the holidays become less about the richness of giving, and more about indulgence or personal satisfaction.
Our culture’s emphasis on an abundance of gifts has obscured the story of the Gift Himself; the festivities leave little room for true, soul-level joy; the glitter and pomp has replaced wonder for the utter humility represented by this holy-day. My enjoyment of all the lovely photos and ideas was bluntly interrupted by the sense of something true being coyly, temptingly robbed from us.
I hope you can understand my heart in all this. My bringing this phrase to the light is not to pass judgment in a season that ultimately represents God’s judgment passing over me. Yet if we’re the salt of the earth, here to preserve that which is true and good and pure, I must be aware of the messages I read. Clever turns of phrase like these steal from us joy—honest joy that mimics God in His unbounded generosity to us this season. He held nothing back for Himself in the gift of Jesus; He didn’t scrape a little off the top to treat Himself.
First Timothy 4:16 reminds me to keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. May we set a guard over our hearts this Christmas, preserving them resolutely for their true King.