Some Thoughts on Abundance & Materialism

In Wednesday’s post, I attempted to echo Ellen’s post in saying that a fleshed-out Christmas–one with decorations! and presents! and lights! and music! and cookies!–is one good and fitting response to a holiday celebrating God’s Incarnation as a flesh-and-blood man in this smelly, fragrant, musical, discordant, delicious and disgusting world. Special gifts, special music, special food, special decorations are good things.

Sure, they can be overdone. I remember taking a run (back when I used to run) around a suburb I was visiting the day after Christmas. I was stunned by the size of the trash piles in front of almost every house: boxes and wrapping and discarded, old things, thrown out, ostensibly, to make room for the new things. But maybe holiday excess results not so much from being too materialistic, but from not being ‘materialistic’ enough. As Margaret Kim Peterson writes in Keeping House:

“Many things in life, whether food or household objects, are truly good. They are to be treated with appreciation and respect, and sometimes this means saying no to too much. This does not mean being ‘less materialistic.’ In a way, it means being more materialistic. It means taking material things seriously enough to be willing to get rid of them or to decline to acquire them in the first place.”

Indeed: sometimes we have to ‘make room’ so we can truly enjoy the goodness of material things. We only have so much room in our stomachs, in our homes, and in our days. Sometimes, a background of simplicity makes room for even better celebration: Christmas cookies aren’t nearly so special when you eat them every day, every week or every month.

No: their proper time and place is only at Christmastime.

There’s something good in that, I think.