Christians and Christmas

Christians and Christmas

Celebrating the incarnation of our Lord is a good and right thing to do, whether as individuals or as churches. The commercial and cultural celebrations are permissible observances for individual Christians, but they represent an unwarranted intrusion when they are introduced into the ministry and services of the local congregation. They are purely secular (and even pagan) events, appropriately enjoyed for the common grace that they embody. But they are nowhere authorized by Christ or His apostles for inclusion in the leitourgia of the church.

I had to work my way through both college and grad school. Over the years I held a variety of jobs. I worked in a woodshop and a metal fabrication plant. I was a lifeguard at a community swimming pool. For several years I worked in warehouses. I ran a stitching machine in a bindery and a Heidelberg GTO printing press in a printing shop. For a short time I worked as a bicycle mechanic. On different occasions I worked jobs in sales. There was a brief stint as a telemarketer (until I figured out what that really meant) and a summer on the floor of an appliance store. One of the more profitable jobs was selling toys in a department store.

My employment in the toy department began in July. From the first day it was clear that we were planning for Christmas. Almost all of the department’s income would come from Christmas sales. By July we were already putting stock on the shelves for the holidays, and the manager had already worked out his pricing strategy.

He was sure that we could not compete for volume with the discount stores. Their pricing was so low that they would drive us out of business. So he deliberately priced his stock high—very high. People would come by, look at our toys, and walk right out the door, sometimes with a snide remark about how overpriced we were. I could barely make my draw in sales every week. I seriously wondered whether the manager knew what he was doing.

He did. Our sales continued to sag into November, which is when the discount stores ran out of the more popular toys. People would walk through our department, shake their heads at our prices, then walk away muttering about finding a lower price somewhere. But they couldn’t, because nobody else had the toys at any price.

Thanksgiving weekend is when panic struck the shopping public. I can remember standing behind a cash register for ten hours straight, servicing a long line of people who were now ready to pay our prices. They were not happy about it. Some of them accused us of inflating our prices at the last moment. But we hadn’t—the prices were right where they had been since July.

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