Let's celebrate Christmas in a sustainable way!
Fr. Ryszard F. Sadowski SDB
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, Poland
13 December 2022
The impulse that provoked me to write this text was my visit to the supermarket. I wanted to buy a Christmas decoration to create an atmosphere that would help me experience the upcoming Christmas. However, a visit to the supermarket left me with ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, I saw many people who did a lot of shopping to prepare beautiful dishes for the Christmas table and give presents to their loved ones. On the other hand, I saw dozens of Christmas decorations in which there was not even a trace of the presence of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The leading roles in these decorations were : Santa, snowman, reindeers, stars, and Christmas trees. It was then that I realized that my expectations of the celebration were different from those proposed by the teams of social psychologists preparing advertising campaigns for international companies. So I decided to speak up and encourage you for a sustainable way to celebrate Christmas. In my opinion, we should sustainably celebrate this festival, i.e., in harmony with God, man, and nature. The contemporary culture of excessive consumption is conducive to focusing only on the material needs of man, ignoring his spiritual needs and eliminating God and nature. For, this approach guarantees the highest profits. Does it, however, satisfy all human needs and have a positive impact on the environment?
Christmas in harmony with God
Celebrating Christmas omitting what happened 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem is absurd and deprives this event of its spiritual character and reduces it only to a material dimension. We then lose the essential message of Christmas, that is:
God loves man and is present in human history.
God has a plan for humans' return to original harmony with the Creator, other men, and all creation.
By becoming man, God confirmed the great value of human being and dignity of human body.
God's proposal refers to human freedom, and the way God's plan is implemented is based on love.
All these elements make Christmas bring great hope to humanity, even though we all experience various manifestations of evil. Therefore, a necessary condition for a sustainable Christmas celebration is restoring its spiritual character.
Christmas in harmony with man
Christmas, like no other holiday, shows man's longing for hope. Christmas also helps to overcome selfishness and meet the needs of others. Celebration is essential to human life, so it should be special and unique. In many countries, there are particular traditions of Christmas and Advent seasons. In the ecological encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis reminds us that just as we should protect endangered plant and animal species, endangered cultures and traditions must also be protected (No. 143). Removing these elements from our culture will make it boring, uniform, uninteresting, and deprived of the rich heritage of previous generations. Therefore, it is worth cultivating local traditions related to Advent and Christmas.
Let's also pay attention to family and friends. Preparing gifts for them yourself will undoubtedly confirm that they are special to us. Furthermore, it will allow us to save money, which we will be able to spend on ensuring that no one in the world is hungry and sad at this time. So, it's worth getting involved in preparing Christmas celebrations in our parishes, schools, youth centers, and neighborhoods. It is worth thinking about visiting sick friends or helping lonely and elderly neighbors for whom preparation for Christmas is a big challenge. Therefore, a necessary condition for a sustainable Christmas celebration is the appreciation of an individual person and confirmation that it is more important for us to be in their presence than unwrapping unnecessary gifts.
Christmas in harmony with nature
It is no coincidence that apart from people and angels in the Bethlehem nativity scene, there are also animals. Christmas brings hope to all creation because God is a lover of life in all its forms (Wis 11:26). At Christmas time, let's also remember our pets so that they can celebrate with us this unique moment in human history when God became man. In our celebration, it is also worth taking time for a walk in the bosom of nature, where we can experience the beauty of creatures that honor the Creator with their existence.
It is also worth remembering that opposing the culture of consumerism contributes to the protection of the natural environment. Gifts made by us, not bought in stores, will protect the climate from further CO2 emissions related to transporting goods over thousands of kilometers, over-exploitation of Earth's resources, and producing millions of tons of waste.
Therefore, I encourage you to celebrate Christmas sustainably in harmony with God, man, and nature. This way of celebrating gives hope to us and future generations. I wish you all Merry Christmas!