Our culture begins the countdown to Christmas with “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday,” and all of the other sales events scheduled for the next few weeks. It’s the Season of Spending. Christians know this time as the season of Advent, a penitential time of self-examination, watching and waiting in expectation of the coming of a new age of justice and loving kindness.
“Green” Christians like Bill McKibben believe that the way our culture celebrates Christmas denies the life and message of Jesus. Back in 1997 he and friends began a campaign for a $100 Christmas. In an article for Mother Jones magazine he wrote, ”If you believe that our consumer addiction represents our deepest problem — the force that keeps us from reaching out to others, from building a fair society, the force that drives so much of our environmental degradation — then Christmas is the nadir. Sure, advertising works its powerful dark magic year-round. But on Christmas morning, with everyone piling downstairs to mounds of presents, consumption is made literally sacred. Here, under a tree with roots going far back into prehistory, here next to a creche with a figure of the infant child of God, we press stuff on each other, stuff that becomes powerfully connected in our heads to love, to family, and even to salvation. The 12 days of Christmas — and in many homes the eight nights of Hanukkah — are a cram course in consumption, a kind of brainwashing.” He continues, “as we continued our campaign, we found we weren’t really interested in changing Christmas because we wanted fewer batteries. We wanted more joy. We felt cheated by the Christmases we were having — so rushed, so busy, so full of mercantile fantasy and catalog hype that we couldn’t relax and enjoy the season.”
What to do instead? He and his family make homemade gifts for each other. They cook and bake together. They take part in church activities. They give to charities. They go for a hike on Christmas morning and spread seeds for the birds as they walk. They focus the season on Jesus. (You can read his whole essay here and review his book about it here.)
You may not want to embrace a $100 Christmas cold-turkey, but you can begin in the spirit of “Giving Tuesday” by down-scaling the presents and up-scaling charitable donations and fun activities as the weeks of Advent go on. Here is a downloadable Advent devotional from the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
I’ll be giving you more “green Christmas” ideas in the coming weeks.
You can find this and all the Creation Care blogs for the church website I have written at a consolidating blog I have created: ststephenscreationcare.blogspot.com
Thanks for your interest in caring for God’s creation!