I am pleased to offer the following for our last email of 2012. Karoline Lewis offers profound thoughts into preaching Jesus without simply bashing consumerism.
Christmas blessings to you.
Former Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders
Preaching Jesus in the Chaos of Consumerism
by Karoline M. Lewis
Reading the title of this piece, I know what you are thinking. Here comes yet another plea to "put Christ back into Christmas." Every year, as surely as Christmas comes, also arrives the bashing of what Christmas has become, a merry marketplace that has overtaken the true meaning of Christmas. What you need to do, "they" remind us, is to be less materialistic, less worldly, and remember that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." As if we can successfully extricate ourselves from the holiday tidal wave by appropriate lamenting, boycotting and longing for the spirit of Christmas. As if preparing for the coming of Christ can happen while living in an ornament-shaped bubble.
But, if we take the incarnation seriously, I am not sure that God would want us to escape our inevitable reality, but to enter into it deeply, as God will do in the manger on Christmas Day. Can we imagine a way of anticipation and preparation for Christmas that takes on fully the real humanness of what the chaos is all about?
Perhaps we could take our cue from this Sunday's Gospel text from Luke. On the fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear the story of two women, Elizabeth and Mary. They share much—familial relationship, miraculous pregnancies and God's regard. Holding the stories of both of these women together, the primary theme that comes to the surface is relationship. The pre-Christmas story could have just been about Mary and would still have been meaningful. But then, it would have been just about her. Luke's story of Jesus' birth suggests that at the heart of anything and everything for which we magnify the Lord is relationship.
Isn't that what stewardship is all about? Isn't that what Christmas is all about? Think about it. Everything we do to get ready for Christmas is about relationship. Making cookies to take to a party or to decorate with our children. Hosting a festive gathering in our home. Finding just the right gift to give to each person on our list. Traveling to be with those we (mostly) love. And then, there's God. Why did God decide to enter into humanity? Why did God determine that it was a good idea to become us? Because then, God would know, sense, experience a relationship with us that God never had before. Because then, God would know, sense, experience our relationships with each other. Because then, God would understand our desperate attempts to maintain relationships that have long ago faded, moved on, in which we still sense demand, or for which we still long.
I am not convinced that God observes all of our franticness and materialism and then decides to respond by decrying our gluttony or condemning our consumerism. I wonder if God watches our worried waiting and sees right through it all. That it is all an attempt to create, sustain and nurture relationships—with those very close, with those who are obligatory, with those from whom we anticipate the yearly correspondence, with those for whom our Christmas greeting, letter, photo or card matters, or they would worry. To preach Jesus in the chaos of consumerism is simply to witness to our need for relationship, and the extent to which we, and God, will go to realize it.
Karoline M. Lewis holds the Alvin N. Rogness Chair of Homiletics at Luther Seminary.
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.