An Extravagant Gift of Love

Just In Time For Christmas

It’s that time of year. We sharpen our elbows, like pencils on the first day of grammar school, and then fly around shopping malls the way demented comets streak across our solar system.  Shoppers indulge in an orgy of consumerism and when retailers advertise sales and discounts, pandemonium ensues.

Is it a cause for concern when willing adults become slaves to materialism? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. However, it is troubling when our children expect, even demand, gifts so expensive, their cost would have accounted for the entire holiday celebration a generation ago. On a societal scale, income inequality is further exacerbated when the poorest among us go into dept trying to emulate the excessive lifestyles they see on television or read about in tabloids.

What will historians say? Will they look back in disbelief? When and how did we become these people? Of course we can easily blame the advertisers, but isn’t it incumbent upon each of us to look past the tablets, video games, smart phones and shiny baubles, and bridge this spiritual void? More importantly, is this even possible in today’s society?

This seems like a good place to reprise the lessons in Dickens’ immortal story, A Christmas Carol, but since we all know well the story of Scrooge, I’ll allude instead to C.S. Lewis’ acclaimed novel, The Great Divorce.

The lead character awakens, after death, in a place called Grey Town, a joyless, dismal neighborhood where it’s perpetually raining and always twilight. Dilapidated rows of homes and shops, tattered billboards and windowless grey warehouses stretch to infinity without nature or beauty to break the monotony. Time is frozen; the people are quarrelsome and continuously revert to their own selfish obsessions and indulgences.

The way out is via a flying bus that stops at the foothills of Heaven. Here, the passengers are but a mist without substance when glistening spirits appear, offering to act as their guides. The only problem is that to enter Paradise, the passengers must make a great effort to change. Remaining relentlessly who they are, most make excuses and willingly return to the prison of Grey Town.

The secret to change is obvious, for like the passengers on the bus, the lock to this prison is on the inside of the door and the key sits on the table beside us.

Through the remarkable gift of faith and prayer we can find the strength to turn that key and walk free. Free of materialism, free of what our deepest truth knows is something less than the spirit of the season. Long before we ever enter Grey Town we will find that freedom immeasurably improves our lives and contributes to our success, not just today, but also when we meet our spirit guides. So this Christmas, rediscover God’s gift of reasoned faith and renewed spiritual strength. Then turn that key.

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