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FIRST-PERSON: Christmas & commerce
Barrett Duke
Posted on Dec 21, 2012

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WASHINGTON (BP) -- Christmas, what a great time of year! I'm glad we celebrate the coming of God to man in the person of Jesus Christ. Through His birth, sinless life, death and resurrection, Jesus provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and find eternal peace with God. We should celebrate that.

Of course, there is that whole commercialization problem. I worry about that, too. We have certainly lost something about the meaning of Christmas, but it's not all bad. Let me give you some things to think about.

For one thing, it's true that stores, restaurants and a multitude of businesses enrich themselves at Christmas. But those stores employ people. They sell products by manufacturers that employ people. We need that employment to continue. The lives and wellbeing of millions of families depend on it.

And there is more upside to the commercialization of Christmas than that. During Christmas, the Gospel message is plastered across America. The very word "Christmas" reminds people of Jesus Christ. Clearly, they aren't getting the whole story, but it's better than nothing. It gives us a good starting place to talk about all that Christmas means.

And it's not only the "Merry Christmas" signs and advertisements that help us with our work of evangelism. There is also all that Christmas music. Some of it, to be sure, is pretty unengaging, like Frosty the Snowman. But I'll take Frosty the Snowman when the playlist includes a song like Silent Night, with its captivating reminder of the miracle of the virgin birth.

Then, there's the whole Christmas spirit the stores help us promote. I understand that many of these store owners just want to get us in the spending mood. But there is a benefit in that mood-altering activity. Most people are just in a better mood at Christmas. They smile more, they think more about the people in their lives. They are moved to generosity and compassion toward the less fortunate. At least for a while, there is a little more peace on earth in some people's lives and across the nation.

We also cannot overlook the impact of nostalgia. Christmas reminds us of simpler times, before all the hardships of life, the bad decisions, the disappointments. It reminds us of a faith that once stirred in our hearts. Such reflection is a seedbed for evangelism. Christmas offers us a perfect opportunity to remind people that it is possible to get a new start.

And for those without memories of better days, it gives us opportunity to tell them the Jesus of Christmas can give them a better present and future, that through Jesus they can escape the chains of their past.

I know it isn't possible to tie a Christmas ribbon around everything that happens in the commercialization of Christmas. And I certainly worry that too many of us spend money we don't have and generally miss the important things about the season. But I wouldn't give up the free press the Gospel gets, the Gospel seeds that are planted, or the spirit of goodwill that is generated as businesses compete for our dollars.

I would rather join the Apostle Paul who declared, "Whether in pretense or in truth Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice," (Philippians 1:18). May you have a Merry Christmas, and may the Christ of Christmas bless you and yours.
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Barrett Duke is vice president for public policy and research at the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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