In the last day I've encountered two different advertisements. The first one was on television and featured a series of cute toddlers trying to say “Merry Christmas”. They all made the kind of verbal mistakes that endear us to that age and it caught my eye. A few minutes later I saw Petra smiling as she watched the same commercial. It was effective.
The second was on the radio. A pleasant woman was talking to her (presumably) husband who was dissatisfied with the old status-quo television and wanted to get an HD TV. The lady was all-too happy to help. “There’s a place we can go” she said, but immediately turned omniscient and told all about the amazing deal this store had.
In the first, the message was that this brand’s greeting cards had the perfect way to say “Merry Christmas”. Subliminally though - even given the fact the message was for adults – told us that we should teach our children what Christmas is really about here in America.
The second ad was for us men. And believe me I understood it. The woman was so eager to help her frustrated husband. “He’s had to suffer through six hours of just regular TV football games today when he could have been watching those games on HD!” And the husband listening to the commercial is saying to himself: “why can’t I have that kind of wife who wants to make my life even better! I’m getting my HD TV even if my grouchy wife says no!”
And we buy (into) it.
In the words of indie band get cape. wear cape. fly. “Open your eyes…you don’t need to buy it.”
There’s a good side to giving gifts at Christmas. There’s a joy in giving and receiving from family and friends that’s appropriate and even important. But if we’re hearing about what you should buy for Christmas in October then you know there’s a problem.
And to most problems there are solutions.
Jason Evans came up with the idea of “Buy nothing day”. The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year and he advises us to not only take it off, but to do something creatively with our day.
You could also choose not to give material gifts this Christmas. In many cases bringing our best doesn’t need to include our wallets. How could we use our talents to serve our friends and family?
Or why not help someone you’ve never met before? You could give a “farmers flock” in a relative’s name or plant 500 trees for your best friend at oxfam.org or other humanitarian organizations.
And probably the most practical thing you can do? Ignore the ads. Turn off the TV or radio when your program has gone to commercial breaks.
Gift-giving is a special, God-given way for us to give as we’ve been given to. Let’s not let it get polluted by our materialist-soaked culture.