Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Real Meaning of Christmas, or How Dirty Water Kept Me From Being a Grinch

Today's post is brought to you by Chase Andre. Enjoy!

"Happy Birthday Jesus!" reads the illuminated sign that casts a light across the 405 Freeway this time a year. Below the sign stands the headquarters for the largest Christian television network in the world. Directly across the 12 lanes of traffic stands South Coast Plaza: Orange County's ritziest of mega-shopping centers.

The two seem to face each other, and dual out "The Real Meaning of Christmas" every year.

"Presents and Holiday Deals!" screams the one, in bright fluorescent.
"Keep Christ in Christmas!" the other matches its electric tone.

This banter happens like clockwork (Well, that's not entirely true. It seems to start earlier and earlier every year. I believe I started seeing "Holiday Special!" sales in August, and my pastor started his "Nativity Series" in mid-September this year...I digress). Either way, you can count on seeing it.

I have to admit, though, I tend to dread it. Not to get all Charlie Brown Christmas on you, but I don't think either sides of this debate is "the true meaning of Christmas." The whole thing makes my head spin, and to be honest, I get downright Scroogey. Or maybe Grinchy. Depends on the mood; or how many @JimCarey tweets I've read.

But this season, I heard a statistic that put legs to my Bah-Humbug.

In fact, I became downright... disturbed.

Every year, Americans spend $450 Billion on Christmas.
Only $10 Billion of that would solve the Clean Water Crisis, Globally.

That same crisis that is claiming 42,000 lives a week.

What does this mean? It means that if we all shaved roughly 20% of our Holiday budget from ourselves and gave it away, we could give life to nearly a billion people who live without this Basic Need. But what do we do instead? Buy Toys and Tinsel.
(Excuse me sir...your Grinch is showing.)

Despite my flaring Bah-Humbugs, Hope has grown in me this year. It's a Hope that comes from the promising prospect of Change; and not the kind offered by any politician.

Instead, what I see is young people, like ourselves, who are beginning to take Jesus at His words:

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me." (Matt 25:40)

As Travis mentioned, a group of friends and I went out on Black Friday to remind folks of the tangible impact their money could have on their Global Neighbors. We started a Facebook Event Page for what we were doing and it spread to more than 3000 invitees, and over 600 positive responses from around the country.

When you hold a protest/picket/whathaveyou such as this, you never truly know what the response will be. Overall, our small group (around 10 friends who banded with us in our area between the hours of midnight and 9am), was very well received.

One man, in line for the midnight opening of Toys'R'Us, stopped in his tracks. You could see on his face that what our cardboard signs stated disturbed him, too. "$20 could provide clean water for a person in a third world country for 20 years? I have to give!" Immediately, he pulled out his iPhone and tapped in "I'm donating right now!" he told us, before he crossed the store's threshold.

Another, about my age, sprinted out of Best Buy at around 5:30am with a flat screen TV under his arm, and a grin-of-victory spread across his face. I offered him a bottle of water, and told him why we were out there when he asked.

"You need to get laid, bro," came his response.

I gave him a bottle of water anyway. He accepted, without breaking stride. As he rushed off to wherever he was rushing to before sunrise, I called out, "And, uh...I hope...that TV, gets you... laid?"

Humorous as I found it, I was saddened to know that is the gauge-of-success much of our culture carries. It affirmed why my friends and I were out there.

Yet with every story like that, we find stories of Hope and change.

For example: a friend, Brandt Russo, is fasting from all food until he raises $15,500 "to help Ryan Alexander of Not Fashionable in his quest to end hunger by helping him provide medicine to deworm 1,000,000 children." (To find out how you can help Brandt in his Operation:STARVATION, or learn more about the cause, click here)

We all know that this stuff -- the toys, and tinsel, and TVs -- won't last. Nor will they bring us anything but momentary happiness. Yet, year after year, we persist to buy them.

If I could make one request, it would be this: Give Life. This Christmas, let's not get wrapped up in the ribbons and glitter and electric allure of the Sales and Specials. Let's not say "Happy Birthday, Jesus" and do nothing to offer him a drink of water (See Matthew 25:40-46).

Instead, let's realize how greatly our blessings & excess could impact another. We could save lives. If the Hope for Change I see rising is a trend here to stay, then Save Lives, we will.

"And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Merry Christmas, Friends.

"Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 8:14, as told by Linus.

Photo Credit: Sarah Jean Photo


  1. I'm so glad I took the time to read this before going to church this morning.

    Despite all the crap going on in the world, we still find Hope, somehow, and that is the very core of the nature of the Gospel we follow. Against all odds, we hope for change. Hallelujah indeed!

  2. Thanks for the reminder that we CAN make a difference. And that, if we all actually put even a little bit of our hearts into it, we WILL make a difference. Although I question your stats ($1500 per person spent on Christmas?) I don't question the value of spending less on us and more on others. (By the way, $10 billion would be closer to 2% than 20%--which means it would be even easier.)
    And the guy who figured YOU needed to get laid? If only people recognized why they do what they do (why does a guy need a new TV?) and how much better you feel about yourself when you actually do something to help others.
    Thanks for the pointed and practical reminder to think and act beyond our own four walls.

  3. Hallelujah indeed, Dianna!

    @Al, the $450bil vs $10bil statistic was found on the Advent Conspiracy video (here) Likely, that number includes corporations, decoration, and possibly even advertisements. It's not a number related only to the purchasing of gifts, but what is spent on Christmas during the whole Holiday season.

    And, yeah, I found a lot of irony in the guy's response. It made me check myself and ask what motivates me in my actions. The flippancy of his response showed me his life is about... or at least what it ISN'T about. Interesting, in the least.

    Thanks for the comment :)

  4. Yes! I do believe this will be a trend. It takes the young to carry on the message and pass it on to the next generations and so forth. I have hope for our generation [and the next, and the next..].

    Fun, engaging read, Chase. I like your cute references to pop culture. Charlie Brown Christmas is some of my favorite Christmas music... And now you make me want to attend Christmas Mass. haha.

    Re: Laid. I think this type of thing (giving, etc) replaces the neediness one has to get laid or other carnal pleasures. Don't get me wrong, it can be great, but often, comes from a place of need. Still one of my fave quotes: No one has ever become poor by giving. ~ Anne Frank

  5. Great post, Chase. I hope you have disturbed many others reading. Materialistic bliss comes and goes, but there is nothing more fulfilling than NOT trying to fulfill what we think we need.

    Now, off to Target (wait, what?)

  6. @Floreta, Glad you enjoyed the post. I definitely believe this Generation will be shaking up the status quo, and I love it.
    And I think you're right. We don't realize that we get in the habbit of filling our "needs"/desires with "stuff" (toys, tinsel, relationships, sex, TVs...), but those things don't satisfy wholly.

    To quote Derek Webb:
    "Like fame for what you're not
    Like joy that you bought
    Like pleasure that never hits the spot
    Like security for liberty you gotta admit it
    It's never quite worth what you give up to get it."

    @Diana, I'm glad to disturb as many as I can! :P And I agree, coming to the realization that we don't need as much as we think we need (and living in that realization) is quite fullfilling.