There’s no season quite so full of wild abundance as the Christmas season. Admit it, do you ever eat fudge or drink eggnog any other time of the year? Or expect a full grown tree to appear in your living room?
It’s a joyful, exuberant time, full of music, family, parties, good food, and friends. But every Christian steward knows that there’s a shadow side to abundance, particularly material abundance, which brings with it challenges. Amid the joy of Christmas, a good steward ponders these challenges.
Speaking at a conference in Mexico City in November, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia spoke of poverty and abundance. He was not speaking about the holiday season, but his words might help us to keep a clear perspective on the values of this time of year.
He cited the growing problem of poverty in the United States. One in six Americans now lives below the poverty line, and the archbishop noted how many other problems accompany poverty: “hunger, homelessness, street crime, domestic violence, unemployment, human trafficking.”
Often the poor among us become invisible, and poverty becomes a scourge of civil society.“ Poverty is an acid that destroys human kinship,” the archbishop said.
At the same time, Archbishop Chaput also spoke to the flip side of this issue – the poverty that comes with abundance. “I mean the moral poverty that comes from an advanced culture relentlessly focused on consuming more of everything; a culture built on satisfying the self; a culture that runs on ignoring the needs of other people.
That kind of poverty, as Saint Mother Teresa saw so well, is very much alive in my country,” the archbishop said.
These are important words, not words that are meant to cast a “bah humbug” spell delightfulness of the Christmas season, but words that help bring us back to the true meaning of Christmas in its joy and abundance. Despite the great spiritual significance of this feast, we can sometimes let the season become a time of material excess. Christian stewards know that the true joy of Christmas is not tied in to the wealth of goods under the tree, but to the abundance of love and generosity that fill our hearts and spill out to others, especially those most in need of our generous spirit.
The Christian steward knows how important it is to take time during Advent, and throughout this holiday season, for silence and stillness, to make room in our hearts for the child born into poverty who came to give us life and share it with all those whom we encounter.