Dr. James Spencer identifies holiday consumerism as distraction from Christian mission

D. L. Moody Center president: ‘We should think about the way we celebrate holidays and how our way of celebrating may be hindering us from walking in newness of life’

October 31, 2022

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The holidays are quickly approaching, and many Americans often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the annual festivities and forget the actual reason for the season. With the annual rise of consumerism and Americans spending more and more money, time, and resources on holiday traditions, it’s easy to make the holidays just another checklist and forget what is actually being celebrated.

For Christians, the call to carefully and accurately assess each holiday and not get distracted by America’s consumer society is especially important. D. L. Moody Center (moodycenter.org) President James Spencer argues that no matter what the holiday is, Christians must be wary of becoming too wrapped up in the details of the holiday seasons and forgetting the call to create disciples.

Spencer commented, “For many, the holidays, including Christmas and Easter, involve rituals that are less reflective of Christ than of a culture in which we pursue our endless cravings and misdirected desires

“For instance, in September, Target announced that it would be instituting early holiday shopping plans in an effort to encourage consumers to part with hard-earned dollars (and to avoid potential overcrowding in stores in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic). Walmart’s press release noted that it would be taking steps to help shoppers make the most of this year’s shortened holiday season by offering ‘more savings, more ways to shop, more top gifts to shop for, and more fun in stores than ever.’

The retailers aren’t the problem, according to Spencer. “If we have largely forgotten how to celebrate without elaborate costumes and candy (Halloween), big meals where we eat more calories than most of us need in two days (Thanksgiving) and multiple gifts under elaborately decorated trees (Christmas), it only makes sense that we need retailers to ‘assist’ us in our celebrations. They are simply following the logic of the market.

“My concern is to highlight the pernicious problem of new holiday rituals that have emerged as a consequence of the world’s sense-making apart from Christ. We don’t always see these rituals as sufficiently problematic and, as such, do not adequately separate ourselves from them. Holidays can and should be times of celebration and worship. We should think about the way we celebrate holidays and how our way of celebrating may be hindering us from walking in newness of life.

“Halloween can become another excuse to shop. It can prompt us to spend an inordinate amount of time as shoppers and buyers as we seek to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ or one-up our neighbors. Scrolling through the virtually endless number of costumes, props and decorations, finding that our Jack-o-Lantern doesn’t stack up with that of our neighbor, or making sure the kids coming by will remember us as the house with the great treats embeds us within a narrative is, at best, Christian adjacent. Similar dynamics could be identified at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter as we busy ourselves (with cooking, baking, shopping, etc.) like Martha rather than sitting at the feet of our Savior like Mary

“I’m not anti-holiday. I am, however, concerned that Christians (myself included) celebrate the holidays in a more deliberate than default manner. We are always in the business of being and making disciples, which means that we need to learn to respond faithfully to the ever-present God who continues to be active within and among us.”

For more from Spencer about how Christians should prepare for the holiday season, see his latest OPED.

The D. L. Moody Center is pleased to announce the launch of its new eight-day Bible plan, Useful to God, on the YouVersion app. Drawing on Spencer’s book titled “Useful to God: Eight Lessons from the Life of D. L. Moody,” this Bible plan examines eight characteristics evident in the Scriptures and in the life of D. L. Moody (e.g., surrendered, prayerful, humbled, undistracted, and studious). Thousands have already completed the plan, with hundreds more subscribing daily.

The D.L. Moody Center is an independent non-profit organization located in Northfield, Massachusetts. Dedicated to preserving and advancing the legacy of Dwight Moody, the D. L. Moody Center is a catalyst for spiritual formation in New England and beyond through evangelism and discipleship.   

The D. L. Moody Center is not a school. Nevertheless, there is much to learn by studying D. L. Moody and what God accomplished through his life which began in New England, at the Northfield, Massachusetts campus, the heart of Moody’s ministry as well as his childhood home.   

Learn more about D. L. Moody Center by visiting moodycenter.org or follow the ministry on Facebook or Twitter