Watching the news on Boxing Day, I heard someone who someone who had been standing in line outside a box store for much of the cold night say the most absurd thing. Asked why he’s been standing in line for seven or eight hours, the young man says, “Just for the fun of it. You know it’s the… Christmas Spirit, Boxing Day, something I wanted to experience.” (You can catch him at around 1:10 into this video.)
Standing in line outside a store on Christmas night, hoping to buy reduced-priced electronics for yourself in the morning—that has nothing at all to do with the Christmas Spirit! You might experience frostbite or the freezing of our soul, but you won’t be experiencing the Spirit of Christmas! Christmas is about the self-giving love of God shown in the birth of God’s Son as a baby in Bethlehem. God sent his son that we might have new life, that we might experience the power to change and not live in such self-centered ways.
The young man mentioned wanting to experience not only the Christmas Spirit, but also Boxing Day. I know it has little meaning to us now, but let’s be clear that the historical meaning of “Boxing Day” has nothing at all to do with the consumer-driven quest to purchase reduced-priced merchandise. Back in the day, Boxing Day was when the alms boxes in Anglican churches were opened up and the money collected throughout the year was given to the poor. It was, thus, an extension of the self-giving love celebrated on Christmas Day.
It can be entertaining when we see the ways in which the meaning of these holy days have become so twisted. But all that aside for a moment, I think we have to admit that all this consumer-driven craziness does affect us. Was Christmas for me a celebration of God’s self-giving love or was I focused on what I was getting under the tree this year? Was I more prepared to persevere in long lines at department stores than I was to go out in the cold to attend special church services? Has the Christ Child been magnified or minimized in my holidays this year? Bah, humbug! I’m afraid people may have seen a little more of (pre-conversion) Ebenezer Scrooge in me and less of Jesus. Well, at least, there’s the makings of a new year’s resolution worth the effort.