Driven over the Edge by a Red Bow

Some people might chalk off my decision to post this as the result of repressed bourgeois greed and envy, or as a sign I’ve joined the Left-wing class warfare crusade, but I assure you it’s neither. As an ardent supporter of the benefits of a free-exchange capitalist system, I am content to know that companies manufacture expensive automobiles and that consumers are willing and able to buy them.

Yet there is so much that I despise about the televised ad campaigns depicting youthful upper middle-class people surprising their loved ones with a red bow-topped luxury car in the driveway on Christmas morn. Every year, my angst grows toward these commercials. And today the Washington Times reports how real people participate in the luxury-car-Christmas-gift-buying trend:

The Jaguar XJ8 is the most popular gift model and runs about $61,000 — at the low end.

Andrew Menditch, a salesman at Northwest BMW in Owings Mills, Md., sold two BMW 325XIs to one man last week — one for his daughter and one for his wife.

“He’s giving the cars to them for Christmas. For his daughter, it’s a surprise and his wife, it’s not,” Mr. Menditch said.

The bill: about $80,000.

Holiday presents are about 25 percent to 30 percent of December sales at the dealership, general sales manager Jon Orofino said.

Men typically are the buyers and give the cars to their wives or girlfriends, the dealers said.

About half the time, Mr. Orofino said, the recipient knows about the gift in advance to choose colors and styles. But sometimes, the men try to keep it a secret. They do some covert groundwork, trying to pick up hints on favorite colors and must-have accessories, sometimes rousing suspicion in their recipients.

“Even if they have an idea, when they actually get it, they’re surprised because it’s such a big gift,” he said.

I find it sad to think that people feel they have to buy such expensive toys to celebrate the Savior’s birth. The blessing is that the more I have considered this trend, and dwell on how much the commercials irritate me, the more it has convicted me of the material emphases I place on Christmas. Not that there is anything wrong with gift-giving per se… of course not. Though I have a hard time imagining the purchase of a vehicle with a price tag roughly equivalent to my annual household income as a holiday gift. And to the guys who try to surprise their wives with a Lexus or BMW: do you normally make unilateral decisions on major household purchases and face no reprisals for it? Or is it not considered a major household purchase? Either way, I must be living in a totally different world.

If you were going to buy a car anyway, you can afford it, and it happens to be December so you call it a “Christmas present,” well, that’s one thing. If the fact that Christmas is approaching means you “need” to buy a fancier car than you would otherwise, or that you buy a Jaguar because it’s an expensive gift to impress someone, what a sad commentary on what you truly value and worship!

While I tend to have a live-and-let-live attitude about many things (after all, so many people have to endure my quirks and eccentricities), the annual return of the “December to Remember” sale elucidates just how much of a crank I can appear to be at times. But if I appear as such, so be it. I will try to dwell on happier things, like the joyous True meaning of the Season.

There is no need for a new law or government regulation to remedy the situation. No, the Savior wasn’t born to institute a political kingdom. There is much more at stake. To those who cannot see past the holiday platitudes, or even past the commercial aspects of Christmas, I want to reach out with arms of compassion and say, “There’s a better way!” On the quiet of a dark Christmas Eve, find a good version of the following song – sit and listen and meditate on the profound personal meaning of the Incarnation – and rejoice:

“O Holy Night” by Adolphe Adam (1803-1856)
O holy night! the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees; O, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand;
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend;
He knows our need, To our weaknesses is no stranger.
Behold your King, before him lowly bend!
Behold your King, before him lowly bend!

Truly he taught us to love one another;
His law is love, and his gospel is peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his holy name;
Christ is the Lord, O, Praise his name forever.
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

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