It's the expectation that we get hooked on, you see. It's the pretty packaging hiding the possibility of a wondrous toy or gadget or gift card or book that keeps us guessing until the glorious moment on Christmas Day. Yet, according to Annie Leonard's "The Story of Stuff", the junk we buy each other is designed to be trashed within 6 months.
We complain about congested shopping malls, about cruel shoppers shoving their way ahead in line, wait times to return unwanted gifts, Canada Post being backed up, and the headaches leaving us all reaching for the Advil. Yet… dare mention NOT buying presents, and guaranteed you'll get shot between the eyes (or at least receive a few nasty emails from people with the spiritual gift of criticism… been there).
A lot of us truly enjoy giving gifts. So let's ask some tough and real questions:
1. Why am I giving this gift? Is it because God's led me to do it? Or is it because my kids have whined for it for the past 8 months? Or is it because I feel better about myself when I give?
2. Do these types of gifts really need to be given?
3. If I'm hurting over how consumer-driven Christmas is, what am I actually doing to stop it and take it back as a holy and sacred time?
The TOYZ "RNOT" US Conspiracy Christmas Challenge 02: Calling all Shoppers!
GOD'S ECONOMY IS NOT CONSUMERISM
1. Giving is in God's economy. But do take the time and sit with Him: what does He want you giving this season? How will it affect the recipient? Like aid workers around the world who are learning that our western idea of giving is actually hurting poor and marginalized people groups, we can be actually hurting our loved ones by buying into the gift-giving craze.
2. If you're buying stuff because you think gift-giving is your "love language", challenge yourself to re-consider who you are actually doing this for. You might feel good about yourself by giving someone chocolates, but didn't realize that person is really struggling with their body image, the chocolate itself is not slave-free, and it gets put in a cupboard for years. Yet you get to come away with a good feeling of self-worth. Hate to say it: but that's just as selfish as demanding every latest gizmo Apple even breathes about. Feeling good about yourself is important, but not when it's coming at the expense of others… find ways that will heal and build up and not tear down… or perpetuate the cycle of stuff.
- go online and shop through Compassion Canada's site… or Samaritan's Purse… or Not For Sale… invest in organizations that know about long-term sustainability, know about how things are made and who's being treated well in the process, and support something worthy in your love language expression
3. If you're buying your kids stuff because they need to feel loved and to keep up with the kids at school, face it: you've bought into consumerism. To what level is up to you. There will always be a measure of consumerism in our lives. Why at Christmas it costs so many people their lives, families and souls is painful to see but it's true.
- you and your kids are going to stand out by standing for Christ… this is just another face of that; no escaping it
- learn to share; if your church or best friend has a Kinect, see if your kids can play video games there; we all don't need each our own everything… have you ever stopped to imagine the DEMAND that places on the world?
- if you want consumerism to stop controlling your family, it will hurt; kids will probably cry. I know I did. The size of the gift determined the size of parental love and school popularity. Man, I was screwed up. Trust me, teaching your kids that pretty presents under the tree does NOT equal love will sink in; seeing the world's needs will open up to them; storing treasures in heaven will be a priority for them. Wii will never be able to to do that, no matter how "inter-connected" it claims it can be for families now.
- kids don't need $$$$$$$$$$$ gifts… they need you.
4. Don't think that by speaking out against our consumer obesity, that I'm calling YOU a bad person… save yourself the email (and my headache), and realize that there's a big problem with Christmas right now. No denying it. And WE need to be the world changers here.
Giving is in God's economy… all this challenge is asking of you is to give as He would give. Shoving an Ipad down each chimney ain't His style.
And if you choose to buy as you always have, not one word of complaint about consumerism from you. You know the truth of how it's destroying whole national economies, you know the self-centeredness surrounding consumerism, and you know God's gift-giving. You can choose to stay as you are, but you can no longer say you never knew how badly your shopping habits were affecting your family, community or the world.
As for those tiresome gift swaps everyone is roped into at work or school, as fine "Merry Christmas!" is as good as any gift. Pitch in and use the money to make stockings for those in shelters over the holidays.
Happy Creative Christmas.