When I was a devout Christian, one thing that really bothered me was the year end devotion to shopping that superseded the devotion to Jesus who explicitly preached that we take care of each other, especially those on the fringes of society. His wise exhortation to his followers was to unload their baggage (vast material possessions) plays well today because radical consumerism makes people mad and sad and hurts so many others. If people stopped and thought about their purchases, particularly who made their fleeting object of desire, perhaps part of the true meaning of Christmas might be realized.
When I was a devout Christian, I spent Advent in the church and that is where I found my peace. I didn't expect the local mall to provide me with the spirit because malls are secular and serve their own purpose. At church, we prayed together and worked together for the community at large, particularly the disadvantaged folks. Our Christmas joy was in making people on the fringes feel loved, respected and a significant part of the community- not outcasts. We gathered food and basic necessities for people who didn't know the meaning of credit card bills or having to buy bigger houses in order to stash all the stuff they had amassed. We helped people find work. We got so wrapped up in helping others who needed food and shelter that our attitude continued throughout the year. Of course one doesn't need church in order to have this attitude, but that is where I learned it.
"Christmas" as we know it today was invented by merchants, manufacturers and greeting card companies. Their motives are the antithesis to the message of the enlightened Jesus. I feel nothing for big stores needing to make all their profits at year's end. I only feel sadness when I see television coverage of crazed shoppers wagging their credit cards at the Mall at 3am on Black Friday. I know that the thrill of the kill will only lead to letdown when the bills come in a month later for presents that are already tossed in a closet or broken. You wanna talk about conspiracy theories? I'll give you one- Christmas.