Come mid-December some of us realise that Christmas is almost here and we have nothing to give to the people on our lists. But when you think about those you need to buy for, you realise they have most things they want or need and you too are in the same boat. Yet somehow each year there seems to be a growing expectation that what it given and received will perfectly match that person and be an expression of the relationship you have with them. The bar feels high! We then end up exchanging gifts that are valuable, but not always wanted or needed.
In his book Stuffocation, James Wallman writes about how we have come to have too much stuff. Following World War 2, consumerism grew to dominate our culture leading us to having more than we want or need. His answer is to move from a life centred around things, to one of experiences. Instead of toys and ties for Christmas, we should give a trip to the zoo, or a day out fishing. And interestingly he believes that with the rise of social media, this move to experientialism is under way.
But if you’ve ever experienced a Christmas lunch where the host hopes for ‘the perfect Christmas meal’, you’ll know that it’s doomed to fail under the pressure (let alone the nerves of the host and guests). Even the best holidays or experiences are over too soon, and we long for more.
So what help does Christianity give us in this area?
Firstly, the deep meaning we seek in life will not be found in goods or experiences. A full and fulfilled life can only be found in Jesus. In John 10:10 Jesus says “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Secondly, having satisfaction in Jesus means we can give and receive at Christmas time without that product or experience needing to carry the weight of fulfilling our deep needs. Smaller gifts and simple times together can be far more enjoyable when done in a healthy spirit.
– Sam Pursell