I’m not sure how much humbug one person can bear, but if I hear another song about peace and goodwill to all men, I think I might smack someone. Instead of roasting chestnuts on an open fire, each Christmas holiday I struggle through shopping aisles, where desperate consumers battle for jars of Cranberry sauce and Brussel sprouts, as if the government had just issued a two-minute warning. “Conspicuous consumption” doesn’t quite capture the chaotic melee of Christmas shopping; weaving in and out of the lanes with my trolley reminds me more of the chariot race in Ben-Hur.
I don’t mean to be a Puritan: “Christmas cheer” is a great and absolute good. We ought to make the effort to encourage one another through the dark and the cold with bright lights, rich food and mulled cider. However, each year Christmas becomes less and less like a Christian festival; every winter our society worships the gods of consumerism and self-indulgence. We all have a need to submit to something greater than ourselves; and because this is the age of consumerism at Yule-tide we now worship mammon.
I suppose there have been more odious or more sinister secular cults – those of Lenin, Mao and Stalin. But he secular gods of consumption and fame have left us with an absurd and infantile culture; humanists and secularists cannot blame religion for that! The religious impulse is part of human nature. Human beings do not get to decide if they will worship; they can only decide what they will worship. In a manger in Bethlehem the God of unlimited power and love became a gift for us. If we must worship, then I cannot think of a better place to start.