globalgirl Advent Adventure, Day 4: Beyond Cynicism


(Idelette’s note: Stefanie is one of my absolute favourite globalgirls on the planet. I love her piece because, honestly, I struggled with my own cynicism this year. Perhaps that is part of why I jumped into this globalgirl Advent Adventure–to prepare my own heart for the Holy birth. Thank you, Stefanie for sharing your journey–you have come through so beautifully. I know I can relate.)

Beyond Cynicism
By Stefanie C.

Until about two years ago, cynicism plagued me. I like to blame it on my university education as a Communications student. Although it’s been four years since I graduated, there are many things I just can’t look at wide-eyed anymore. My mind was trained to sift through pop culture trends with the fine toothcomb of criticism so I can be aware of and intercept the techniques the mass media use to suck the public in to their greedy capitalist schemes.

It got to a point where I stopped enjoying most things and wondered if ignorance really was bliss. The cynicism would heighten during the holidays, usually once I saw the first Christmas commercial for a pair of … jeans. And wait, was that an ad on the radio for “Christmas special laminate flooring?” As a young, zealous Christian it really yanked my chain to see such a holy event bastardized with commercialism.

Part of this might have been culture shock. I immigrated to Canada from Dubai just 11 years ago and Christmas looked very different over there. First of all there was no association of Christmas with snow, snowmen, fireplaces, stockings or mittens. It gets cool but it’s still a desert. At least that was my experience anyway. I’ve heard Dubai has changed a lot and if I heard correctly, they’ve created a faux winter wonderland. As kids, all we had was a tree, one present per child, marzipan sweets, kulkuls (a Goan treat), Midnight Mass, and an all-night Christmas party with family and friends. It usually lasted no more than two weeks.

Post-immigration, and I discovered Christmas on crack. The most drawn-out holiday ever―from November 1st to December 25th. I soon realized the stores dictated when the season would start. Once Halloween was out, Christmas was in. Year after year I’d listen to news reports on TV declaring that consumer records were being broken across the board, perpetuating more Christmas shopping if you hadn’t already spent the x amount of dollars they said was the new average.

The whole idea of stockings and stocking stuffers was new to me. Everyone got multiple presents PLUS mini-gifts stuffed into a stocking?! The fact that a lot of people will go into debt to achieve this level of Christmas celebration blew me away. The whole ‘X-mas’ thing (taking ‘Christ’ out of it) just pushed my buttons even more.

The thing about cynicism though, is that it wears you out. I got tired of being the critic. It was a lot more fun to be a part of the celebrations. But I knew I had to find my balance.

So I stopped expecting the world to acknowledge and validate the Truth about Christmas. The fact that it’s about God sending His Son to save the world from its ugliness doesn’t wrap up as prettily as a tin of cookies or an iPhone. Or the fact that the first place Jesus lay his head as a baby was in a feeding trough in a barn, and that His mother didn’t have a comfortable place to give birth, and that His earthly father probably felt inadequate for not being able to provide much when faced with the circumstances. Everything about the Christmas story screams modesty, humility and simplicity.

And meaning.

The three Magi brought Jesus gifts loaded with meaning. Gold, as a symbol of His royalty. Frankincense for worship, and to signify His divinity. Myrrh, as an anointing oil.

I love that this original act of gift-giving has been passed down through the generations. And I love to think of the uniqueness of each person on my list and what special gift I can give them. It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses and reaching new credit card limits. I found balance when I learned I didn’t have to subscribe to either extreme: neither the modern materialistic Christmas culture nor religious snobbery towards worldly holiday celebrations.

To celebrate Jesus’ birth brings with it an implication to celebrate all that He stands for. Excess and consumerism aren’t on that list. Love, joy and hope are.

Jesus will always be the power that holds the universe together; that is true of Him now and even back when He arrived quietly in the form of a fragile newborn. No power can thwart that, not even all the greed and materialism the world can conjure up.

I meditate on this and I am no longer threatened. I can freely participate―with joy―in the symbolic act of gift-giving (and the shopping that might go with it. I love to shop, who knew?) without feeling like a sell-out to my faith.

A word for today: Celebrate.
Activity: Buy or make a thoughtful gift for someone. Thoroughly enjoy the shopping or crafting experience.
Prayer: Lord, help me to so love the world like You do.

About Stefanie:
I am a globalgirl, with roots in Goa, India, a childhood spent in Dubai, UAE and just this past year I became a Canadian citizen. I spend most of my free time crafting. You can find my handmade creations at my etsy shop itsbeautiful

  • cobus

    Thanx. I’ve been struggling with how to preach as a progressive during Christmas, not going into the “religious snobbery” (I love the way you put this), but pointing to the strong critique the Jesus story (this year it’s the first two chapters of Luke I’m working with) has against our consumerist culture. Your post help shape my thoughts for Christmas morning, a sermon I dread…

  • Stefanie

    Thanks, and that’s great to hear! Best wishes for your sermon! :)