The Christmas season, which now begins the day after Halloween, has become such an over-the-top commercial spectacle that the vast majority of people seem to forget what the holiday actually celebrates. Though one would think Christmas honors gift-giving, credit card debt and mediocre-at-best songs, a quick visit to Wikipedia shows that it actually celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
Considered the son of God by Christians around the world, Jesus did not at least in any account of his life I've read ever go to a mall or even order a single gift online. And though the stories say that he could turn water into wine, no biblical accounts ever suggest he turned milk into eggnog or fruit into fruitcake.
As far as I know, Jesus never had a wish list of gifts, never wrote a letter to Santa Claus and never once had to fake a smile when someone gave him an ugly sweater. I'm also pretty sure he never pushed someone out of the way to get the last of whatever gift was hot that season and when he did get a present, I'm guessing he always said "thank you."
While I'm not that familiar with Jesus, his message of peace and love does not seem to include anything about making sure you get up early to hit the stores on the day after Thanksgiving. And, while he gave of himself to his people, he gave to those in need, not those who just wanted cooler stuff.
Christmas the religious holiday has become Christmas the American event. Instead of actually thinking, "What would Jesus do?" too many people think, "What can I buy for myself with the gift card I got from Grandma?"
Certainly Christian America does not need a New England Jew telling them about the true meaning of Christmas, but somebody has to. When the religious aspects of a holiday that celebrates the birth of your savior become less important than buying stuff, something has gone truly wrong.
We teach our kids to write letters to Santa Claus to beg for toys, but too many of us forget to tell them that they should also be asking whatever higher power they believe in to provide for those who have nothing. Even those of us who do not believe Jesus was the Messiah can get behind the ideas he preached.
As a Jewish man, the birth of Christ does not hold the same meaning for me that it does for my Christian friends. The spirit of what Jesus represents, however, should not be lost in a sea of greed and commercialism. On Christmas, Jesus would have worried about those who lacked food and shelter, not who had him in the office "Secret Santa."
Whether you're a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or anything else, it's hard to not support the concept of caring about others and giving of yourself. Those themes are pretty much universal in all religious icons, be they prophets, saints, saviors or gods. Perhaps that's what we should all be thinking of come Christmas morning.
Daniel B. Kline's work appears in over 100 papers weekly. His new book, a collection of columns, "Easy Answers to Every Problem," can be ordered at Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. Daniel B. Kline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.