Every year brings the customary question, especially from my wife: “What do you want for Christmas?”
My answer gets clearer every holiday season. I want LESS!
My wife nods with a knowing smile, her unspoken response being, “Sure, I’ve heard that one before. But if you don’t get anything, you’ll probably feel unappreciated.”
No I won’t, honey. I want LESS!
Years ago I wrote a booklet called “Have an Authentic Christmas,” my humble attempt to put the Nativity story in its rightful perspective. I asked us to read this ancient tale as a call to humility and universal love, an alternative to the corrosive influences of wealth and worldly power.
I quoted a man named Michael Jessen; his words remain prophetic.
“For a holiday that celebrates the birth of the ultimate, anti-materialistic prophet, Christmas is burdened with stuff. Jesus urged his disciples to simplify their lives, drop all their possessions, and follow him. But as his birthday nears, statistics abound about the extra garbage we produce, the increased stress we endure, the credit card abuse we commit, the additional hoards of food and drink we ingest. Polls repeatedly say we yearn for less commercialization of Christmas, yet we also tell pollsters we expect to spend as much or more than last year during the holidays.”
I write this while the United Nations Climate Change Conference convenes in Paris. CBS coverage included pictures of pollution and global warming effects from around the globe. There were surreal images of Beijing, where smog is so suffocating that people wear face masks to protect their lungs. It’s like smoke moving in from killing fields, or fog from a noxious swamp.
The schizophrenia of our nation struck me immediately. We want a strong economy, driven by consumers. Retail sales on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are closely watched, causing rises or falls in the financial markets. And so many of the products we purchase are made in China, a nation that continues, like the U.S., to belch fossil fuel residues into our atmosphere, affecting us all.
Our over-consumption and waste cannot continue. It will doom our planet. Just as insidiously, it dooms our spirits by tying them to the crumbling treasures of this earth.
How can any of us, in good conscience, wring our hands about climate change, then continue our current patterns of buying?
Do you care about melting glaciers, dwindling rain forests, or vanishing species? Do you believe this planet is a precious gift to preserve for generations to come?
If so, will you join me this Christmas by committing yourself to 50% less spending? Let our actions be a witness to how each of us can make a small difference.
Maybe you’ll even adopt this simple response to the question of “What do you want for Christmas?”
I want LESS!