Summary: Has Christmas got completely lost in all the commercial noise around it as a festival? Is there still a real meaning to Christmas?
Christ of the Advent
Main Passage 2 Tim 3: 1-7
It is advent season again. It is time to sing carols, eat Christmas cakes, wear new cloths, decorate homes, put up the stars, and wish people Merry Christmas. It is that time when we are supposed to rejoice in the good news of great joy that was announced to the shepherds by the angel Gabriel.
But let us face the facts. We all complain about Christmas being commercialized. It really has become a time of shopping and discounts for some and for others it is a time of partying and merriment. There is a complete economics around Christmas now a days. In the US, one fourth or 25% of all personal annual spending takes place during the Christmas shopping season. On an average every US citizen is expected to spend at least 800 USD (Almost INR 55000/-) per person during this season alone on shopping, and 75% of it is on gifts. In Briton, the alcohol consumption is calculated to go up by 40% during the Christmas Season. Every person on an average gains at least 2 Kilos of during this season. Close to 4.5 cores (That is 45 million) hours are spent on online shopping itself during this season. There is a whole repertoire of terms that has evolved around the Economics of Christmas. One of the interesting ones is “Christmas Creep”, which refers to advancing the beginning of the shopping season by a few days every year. Concepts like Black Friday, Christmas market, Super Saturday, Boxing day etc. have evolved around the commerce surrounding Christmas. There is even a Christmas Price Index being calculated by economists. I am sure there will be PhD dissertation on Economics of Christmas soon. Don’t worry, I will not be the one who is doing that research!!
One of the most interesting economic fact that I came across about Christmas is the concept of Deadweight loss. What is that, you might ask. It is a complicated economic term, but let me try to explain it in the context of gift giving for Christmas. Many of you would have heard the carol “Twelve days of Christmas”. It is about the gifts that a true love sends to a person. Here is an exercise you can do when you go back home. Add up all the gift items listed in that carol. It comes to a whopping 364 items. That gives you an idea about the scale of gift giving during Christmas. Economists have calculated that if the people actually purchased the gift items themselves, rather than being purchased by the gift giver, the overall cost would have been lesser by as much as 4 Billion US dollars in the US alone (That is 4 followed by 9 zeros, this translates to an amount of 28000 Crores of INR). This loss is called the deadweight loss of Christmas.
What do these statistics tell us? To me these are not surprising. Paul warned us in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJV) But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Don’t you think this is what is happening in the world today? Is the world not moving towards this description where men are lovers of self, lovers of pleasure, lovers of money, unloving, unforgiving. And what is concerning is that even those who have “some form of godliness”, fall into this trap. In other words, we might be carrying a Christian name, might be professing Christian faith and might still be just part of this Christmas Economy, without knowing its power as v 5 tells us. I am sure all of us have heard the Christmas message, the meaning of Christmas many times. This morning, let us ask ourselves, do we fall into that category that 2 Timothy 3:7 (NKJV) talks about? “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”.
How do we understand the power of the message of Christmas better? How can we “come to the knowledge of the truth” about Christmas? In my opinion, to do this we have to understand the real truth behind the message of Christmas, the real message behind the good news of great joy.
Since we started with commerce around Christmas, let us stay with that theme. How do companies send the message about their product to the public? How do they generate interest in their products and services so that we will go and splurge our hard earned money on their products, there by making them richer and contributing to the Christmas Economy? You know the answer, they do it by advertising? One of the most common means of advertising is celebrity endorsements. So we see Sharukh Khan selling a supermarket service, we see Sachin Tendulkar selling a mobile payment App. We see Priyanka Chopra selling chocolates, we see Amitabh Batchan selling baby accessories. You know the details, this list goes on and on. The commercial world tries to reach their message to us through various means, they send their representatives to convey the message that their product or service is great and we should spend our money on it. And many times they succeed. The statistics that I quoted at the beginning of the sermon should convince us that they are successful.