Feeling any Christmas guilt? Here’s the type you should ignore and the type you should face
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Listen to the audio
Read the transcript:
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, today, I want to take you to a blog piece written by Mary Sauer. She says, “I have Christmas-induced parental guilt and I don’t know what to do about it.”
In essence, in this piece, she talks about how Christmas can get a little materialistic. She talks about the fact that, when she was doing some online shopping, she said she felt guilty as she realized some children had nothing this Christmas.
She said she was overcome with guilt. “We have so much to be thankful for as Americans. Even the poorest among us have more than some people around other parts of the world.”
How would you respond to Mary’s “Christmas-induced parental guilt?”
DR. REEDER: Yeah, Mary Sauer is actually exhibiting what the original blog phenomena was all about, which was a stream-of-consciousness that was publicized, with her, “Christmas-induced parental guilt.”
Now, do I think there’s a reason for her to deal with this issue of guilt that she articulates? Here she is, buying toy after toy after toy and the stories are filled with children who don’t have anything at Christmas and they don’t have celebration of Christmas.
However, here’s where her statement is wrong: This isn’t Christmas-induced guilt. We always love to put our guilt away from us – we’ve got guilt and we are the victims of guilt and there’s something else that has brought this guilt.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FALSE AND TRUE GUILT
No, guilt is something that comes from sin. Now, that can be a false guilt that’s there, but there’s enough true guilt going around that you don’t need false guilt and people that have an ability to put you on “guilt trips.”
However, one of the things about true guilt – and I think there’s a place for this – our descent into mind-numbing consumerism as a culture that is never more manifested than at a moment like Christmas, in which we have actually made Christmas a GNP issue for our culture more than a celebration of a glorious event called the gift of God’s Son to us to save us from our sins.
And that’s where the gift-giving is supposed to come from – God gave His Son and His Son gave His life to give to us a gift of salvation so think of those three gifts as you approach Christmas.
No. 1 gift: God so loved the world that He gave His Son; No. 2 gift: God’s Son went to the cross and gave His life as a ransom for many, born into this world to save sinners from their sins with an atoning death at the cross; and then, No. 3, God’s Son now offers this gift to us if we will repent of our sins and put our trust in Him, die to ourselves and embrace Christ as Lord of Life and even our very life.
That has turned into things like gift-giving. The famous 4th century St. Nicholas, who would go around and give gifts to children, particularly needy children, and all of that coincided together.
And now what we have is a gift-giving enterprise and the elevation of gift-giving, but, in the secular Christmas, it is divorced from any meaning at all, except “Let’s pump the economy and let’s see what all I can give to my children in order to feel better about what I am not really giving them to that they need and in order to feel better about, perhaps, my neglect of them throughout the year,” kind of a penance act of all of this gift-giving.
That’s not Christmas that induced that on you – that’s your decision as to how you use Christmas.
SHOULD PARENTS FEEL GUILTY AT CHRISTMAS?
I would tell parents don’t feel guilty about giving gifts to your children. What you do need to feel guilty about is, No. 1, if Christmas has become a consumer event instead of a Christ event and, No. 2, if you have detached your gift-giving from the glorious gift of God’s Son and the articulation to your children, “Can I tell you why this gift is so glorious?”
Extravagant gifts are not bad, in and of themselves. There has never been a more extravagant gift than the gift of God’s Son. The Bible indicates that in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son.” You can’t get a more extravagant gift than has been given to us.
God has done much and given much to save you from your sins, but He didn’t do that to make much of you – He did that to set you free from making much of yourself and to know the joy of making much of Him. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever and the gift of God’s Son is what enables us to do that.
Therefore, I would tell Mary Sauer, “Mary, back off – not from gift giving, back off from its disconnect from the glorious gift of God’s Son, who gave Himself to give us eternal life. Not only connect it to that, but tell your children, “I’m giving these gifts to you as a statement of how much I love you, but there is a greater gift from One who loves you much greater than me and that is Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory.’”
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, let me ask you about another issue, which parallels what we talked about today – it isn’t necessarily related to gift-giving – and that is depression during the holiday season.
WHY IT’S OKAY TO FEEL CHRISTMAS DEPRESSION
DR. REEDER: Yeah, that’s a great question, Tom. I think depression comes from two points. One is understandable – Christmases that have been rightly enjoyed and rightly embedded into our life with loved ones can become depressing times when those loved ones are not there. Now, maybe it’s physical separation because there are some in another location, but maybe it’s also because of a death and that’s understandable.
Again, the antidote is not to deny that depressive feeling, but to address it and to address it with the truth of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
I remember people telling me when my mom and dad died, “Well, you’ll get over it.” Well, actually, I didn’t want to get over it. There’s a little piece of that, “depression” that I think is good.
I’ll never forget when we were cleaning out clothes of my dad’s and my mom said to me, “Don’t move that coat. Leave that coat.” And I said, “Why?” and she said, “Because when I walk in the closet, I still smell him.”
There’s a sense that depression is an affirmation of the depth of a relationship that has been unnaturally broken by death, but now address that that God’s grace is glorious, and God has won the victory over death and our greatest days are always yet before us.
…BUT NOT THIS KIND OF CHRISTMAS DEPRESSION
Now, there can also be another depression that I want people to get liberated from, not in terms of the theological truth that we have great joy that we will have a family circle unbroken in all eternity, but there is another one in which you actually are looking to Christmas to be the savior and then you get depressed when it doesn’t deliver.
We build up Christmas that it’s going to be this great event that’s going to make my life meaningful as we get together, and party, and give gifts and everything and, all of a sudden, who turned the lights out? It’s over. And, by the way, I’m empty and it just never quite delivers.
I was in that circle before I became a Christian that Christmas parties were these raucous events that we were going to get together, and have this party time, and it was going to be meaningful and then you got in the car and you left and you said, “Okay, now what was that about?”
I remember, Tom, being at such an event and just thinking, “Is that all there is to this?” And that depression is a depression that God has sent to tell you what you think will save you – Christmas celebrations defined by the world – is empty.
It’s all vanity, but there is One who can fill you up with joy and overflow in you with love, love of God which gives worship and praise to Him and love of one another, whereby we share the Gospel with the lost and we encourage one another with the words of hope in Christ.
That depression is also a blessing because it’s showing you, you are building something into a Christmas that is nothing more than a fabrication.
THE REAL CHRISTMAS
You come to the real story. C.S. Lewis calls it “The True Myth.” Can you believe this? God has come to save us from our sins and when Jesus shows up, now life is springing evermore. Celebrate the birth of a Savior because, through His birth, you can be born again.
The One who came through the Virgin to save us from our sins, Emmanuel, God with us, can make you right with Him and live right within you and you can be born again. And, if you are born again, now you got a Christmas to celebrate. And use this moment to reach others as well, but give praise to your God.
Joy to the world, the Lord has come, the Lord is come – he’s at work in your life – and the Lord is coming again.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.