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Feeling Christmas

What leaches joy from Christmas is sometimes no more complicated than the fact that we have grown used to it.
| Dec 24, 2014 | 5 comments |

Among our many honored Yuletide traditions is complaining about the commercialization of Christmas. Or, better yet, the commercial racket of Christmas. It’s entrenched in two of our most iconic Christmas stories: A Charlie Brown Christmas (Charlie Brown won’t let commercialism ruin his Christmas!) and Miracle on 34th Street. (Imagine a New York accent with me: “Make a buck, make a buck …”)

I’ve no use for this tradition, because I have no sympathy for the complaint. I’m not even sure what people are complaining about. Do they think people should be high-minded enough to celebrate without spending a good sum of money? Do they think the junction of commerce and Christmas dirties up the holiday? Does it bother them to see businesses making money off of Christmas? (Wait till they find out that doctors make money off of sick people!)

I’ve wondered if what some people mean by “commercialization” is valuing and emphasizing material things over spiritual things, but if so, they’re confused; the proper term for that is materialism.

If Christmas sometimes feels cheap, it’s not because it’s commercial; it is the eternal instinct of humanity to celebrate things – birthdays, weddings, harvests, religious holy days, anything worth celebration – with some combination of music and food and gifts and decorations. Wherever possible, this involves money. Maybe the angels know how to rejoice in spiritual things in purely spiritual ways, but we humans must be allowed our material celebrations.

There is always a danger, of course, that material things will trump, or even drive out altogether, the infinitely more important spiritual things. But I don’t think even that is the principal reason for the dullness that can make even a believing Christmas stale. We know perfectly “the reason for the season”; we remember often; it is in the songs we sing, the decorations we put up, the sermons we hear. But for all that, isn’t there a time for all Christians when we just don’t feel Christmas?

What leaches joy from Christmas is sometimes no more complicated than the fact that we have grown used to it. We always grow used to things, and then we forget how wonderful they are. We’ve forgotten that we live in our own fairyland, that it’s incredible that the sky is blue and leaves are green and birds fly. We’re inured to the massive complexity of life, complacent to the notion that we are at every moment careening through space at unimaginable speeds. Scientists tell us the whole universe balances on the knife’s edge where order and life are possible, prophets and saints promise us everlasting glory in God’s name, and we believe and go on our way.

We lose thnativitye wonder. All our lives we hear the Christmas story, and we grow used to that, too: used to God being born in a stable, used to the nobody shepherds being sent by angels to see Him, used to wise men appearing from no one knows where to worship a newborn Jewish king, no one knows why. And though we remind ourselves how wonderful it all is, some Decembers we can hardly feel it.

But if wonder can be lost, it can also be regained, and often in the most unexpected moments. Anyway, the truth matters more than our feelings about it. The story of Christmas is no less marvelous in the two thousandth year (and on the two thousandth telling) than it was that first night. We have the good news of great joy, every bit as much for us as for the shepherds; we have the Savior, helping us this very day. Emmanuel came, and now God will be with us forever.

So Merry Christmas.

Shannon McDermott is the author of the fantasy novel The Valley of Decision, as well as the futuristic The Last Heir and the Sons of Tryas series. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website, ShannonMcDermott.com.

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I would argue that commercialism IS a problem to a specific extent. Some businesses tend to not exactly treat their employees well and put their desire for profits over their employees. I’m a big supporter of the free market and don’t want them regulated for this, but I find the way some folks are worked and treated on holidays immoral.

Julie D

As a part-time clerk, I second Timothy. The store I work at was open 7 am-8 pm on Thanksgiving and 8 am-8 pm Christmas Eve. They’re closed on Christmas, but that’s it.


How the employers treat their employees has nothing to do with commercialism. That’s a character flaw. Those kind of people probably don’t treat their employees very well all year round.

As for the stores be opened on those days, if the consumers would quit going out to eat, buying groceries, or buying items on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve (sometimes Christmas Day), the businesses would not be open.

However, I do agree that that is no excuse for the employers to open their stores on those holidays. Or to be treating their employees poorly. I always wished the employers would just let their workers stay home and spend Christmas with their families.

So in my opinion, the consumers and the companies are both partially to be blamed for the stores being opened over the holidays.


Yes and now. The fact that employers have been actively being open longer and earlier and so on than previous years is a puposeful act of subverting traditions and overturning expectations about family times at Christmas season to make money. Yes, the customers feed into it at times, but that doesn’t excuse the companies either. They both are wrong.

Remember the movie Elf, if you have seen it? Anyways, the guy who makes the character’s dad and others work Christmas Eve is bad not just for his attitude, but for making them work on Christmas Eve. These days I wonder if besides the attitude most folks wouldn’t just agree with the bad boss, at least at these corporations. This is overturning long-held traditions and expectations about the holiday and that is bad to me.


Looks like to me we both mostly agree with each other. The only thing that I disagree with is this statement:

“The fact that employers have been actively being open longer and earlier and so on than previous years is a puposeful act of subverting traditions and overturning expectations about family times at Christmas season to make money.”

While I would agree that there are probably some who do this, I would also guess that most companies aren’t trying to overturn expectations about family time. To them, it’s all about money. Greedy in a way, yes. But I really don’t think that these companies are sitting around their expensive tables, dreaming of ways to ruin family time during the Christmas season.

Seems to me that the family decline in America happened first. Then the stores began opening earlier and longer. I believe these two are at least partially connected with each other.

Plus I don’t think it’s really fair to the companies, or to anyone, to be reading and judging their motives when you’re not a hundred percent certain. To be purposefully tearing the family apart for profit is a very serious accusation. I would be careful of talking that way without more substantial evidence. You can say it is an opinion. That is what mine is. But I wouldn’t state it as fact.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas!