Pope decries commercialization of Christmas
David Frum thinks that the real Christmas war is between Jesus and Santa Claus. Unfortunately, Frum's article delves only superficially into what is a growing movement among Christians to put the sacred back into Christmas and reduce or eliminate the frantic gift giving and hard sell that are hallmarks of the commercialization of the season.
Pope Benedict had some strong words in that regard in his Christmas sermon from St. Peters:
Benedict, wearing resplendent gold and white vestments, urged his listeners to find peace in the symbol of the powerless Christ child in a world continually threatened by violence.
"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," he said in his homily to about 10,000 people in the basilica and millions more watching on television throughout the world.
"Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."
The Christmas story of how Jesus, who Christians believe is the son of God, was born powerless "in the poverty of the stable" should remind everyone of the need for humility.
"... let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart," he said.
The pope, who earlier placed a "candle of peace" on the windowsill of his apartments as the life-size nativity scene in St Peter's Square was inaugurated, called for an end to violence, for oppressors to put down their "rods" and for all to become peacemakers.
"God has appeared - as a child. It is in this guise that he pits himself against all violence and brings a message that is peace," he said.
Every pope for the last century has said something similar. But even secular Christians are beginning to heed the sentiments expressed by the pope. There's a greater emphasis on family and simplicity and less on the accumulation of material things. Many parents are involving their children in charitable work, teaching them the value of thinking of and helping those less fortunate.
Retail businesses may not like it because Christmas time is when they become profitable. But buying less and giving more is an idea that is catching on and while it won't eliminate the commercialization of Christmas, it may rub some of the rough edges off the glitz and greed that currently mark the season.