Our family had a discussion about Christmas today at dinner. Of course, the kids are all for fully decorating the house, lots of presents, and anything else that we might fit into our small living room. Jenn likes Christmas, and would like to have decorations up as well. As for me, I can stand what Christmas has become; a commercial bonanza of glitz and debt that not only promotes the sin of materialism, it promotes the type of idolatry that Constantine hoped it would replace when Christmas was placed in competition with the foremost pagan holiday of the time. The fact that Jesus was probably born around late August or early September seems to be lost on everyone, perhaps because the very idea of Christmas has evolved to be a larger event the the humble beginnings of the Messiah.
Our daughter Emma suggests that the gift giving commemorates the story of the magi giving gifts after the birth of Jesus and his identification as a king. That is pretty clear thinking, but it seems to me that we might better celebrate the birth of Jesus by regarding his humble beginnings with a type of reverence that certainly seems missing from the debt circus that Christmas has become.
As for giving gifts, Emma is exactly right that we ought to give of ourselves, both spiritually and materially, in remembrance of Jesus, but this should certainly be done on a daily basis by both individuals and meetings as a standard liturgy of giving in the name of Christ. Once a year events magnify the boasting aspect of gift giving. Daily humility recognizes the importance of rightly sharing resources with those who need them the most.
If I hear one more commercial on the radio suggesting that a diamond proves that my wife is "the most important chapter of my life story," I'll puke. And then I'll try to express my love by dedicating every day to her emotional, spiritual, and physical needs, that we might write a life story together that doesn't need a diamond to sponsor it.
By the way, I fudged and said their could be decorations as long as they were home made, and that Emma could have Christmas lights in her room - though it might end up looking more like a Cass Corridor bar than a Quaker girl's bedroom. http://sem.earlham.edu/~millesc1/