I’m sure you’ve heard of the latest rage for this Christmas season. It’s the newest thing everyone is talking about and everyone must have. It is an upside-down Christmas tree. I’m not joking!
Hammacher Schlemmer was selling these trees for almost $500 but now they are sold out. The ad states, “this unique 7' pre-lit fir is inverted to ensure a smaller footprint for less-spacious areas, and allowing more room for the accumulation of presents underneath.”
This is a very popular item and many people buy them either for the shock value or to display ornament collections and I see no “evil” connection or anti-Christmas message. Instead I see a perfect symbol of how the culture has turned Christmas upside-down.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth who is not only God’s only begotten Son but God Himself in the flesh. Giving gifts during this celebration of Christ’s birth is supposed to remind us of God’s generosity (see John 3:16) and encourage us to imitate our heavenly Father (see Matthew 5:48). During this season we often place a pine tree in our home and call it a Christmas tree. A Christmas tree is meant to remind us of Christ. It is a symbol of Christ. It is evergreen to remind us of God’s endless love and the gift of eternal life. Its shape points toward heaven, our true home. Since it is a symbol of Christ we place our gifts beneath the tree asking for Him to bless them and accept them because the gifts we give to others are the gifts we give to Him (see Matthew 25:40).
The culture, however, sees Christmas not as a time of giving gifts in the name of Jesus Christ to those we love and those in need, but rather a time of getting. It is a time of material gluttony. It is a time to reinforce and perpetuate the “one with the most toys wins” mentality. Most retail stores make approximately 80% of their annual income during this season. This should tell us that without Christ they would be broke and we obviously don’t need all of the “must haves” the remainder of the year.
So, how do we truly practice what we preach and “keep Christ in Christmas”? Pope Benedict XVI once suggested the simple practice of families placing a Nativity Scene in a prominent place in the home. I have three more suggestions to not only counteract this materialistic mentality but to also make Christ the focus of Christmas once more.
First, if you must buy gifts make sure they promote the faith. We almost always buy gifts for our godchildren and when we do we make sure that they are faith oriented, learning oriented or both. We try to buy Catholic Christian gifts, books, games, and videos.
Second, make your own gifts. Everyone has some natural ability or talent that they can use to create a gift. It can be anything from a painting to a birdhouse or baked goods to quilts. Last year our family filled Christmas tins that we had collected over the years with homemade biscotti, bourbon balls, Kentucky colonels, candied nuts and chocolate covered pretzels and gave them to friends and family. This year we will fill collected glass peanut butter jars with different flavors of homemade hard candy and give those away along with a few bottles of my homebrewed wheat beer.
Third, give a gift that has eternal value. On Thanksgiving we always draw names on both sides of the family to choose who we will be giving our gifts to. Today, since we are scattered all over the country, we use an online name drawing program like this to handle the name drawing for us.
From that day forward we begin gathering spiritual gifts for the person we have chosen. We say extra prayers like the rosary. We go to Eucharistic adoration and pray for their intentions. We offer to God special sacrifices like not drinking coffee for the entire Advent season or fasting one day a week for the other person. Throughout Advent we keep that special person close to our hearts in prayer and continually offer to God all our prayers, works, joys, sorrows, sufferings, and sacrifices for their intentions. During this time some of us keep a journal of our acts of love and on Christmas present the person we chose with a letter or card explaining how we continually brought them, their intentions and well-being before God.
This has practice has become everyone’s favorite gift every Christmas. We cannot help but recognize the power of intercessory prayers offered for us throughout Advent. It is a powerful, beautiful gift that no material object could ever replace. Our cards and letters fit wonderfully beneath the tree but the gifts that those cards and letters symbolize couldn’t fit under any tree, even if it were upside-down!
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