What We Don’t Need This Christmas

Photo of pile of empty boxes. Original: https://unsplash.com/photos/HofOYDPOIdA

Over the last seventy years,

Give or take a decade or two,

We have mastered the art

Of manufacturing, marketing,

Of buying and consuming

With a voracious appetite

For plastic, cheap, disposable

Trinkets, electronics, fast food, clothing

All the while convincing ourselves that

Consuming is best for our nation

And is the right and privilege of being an American Christian.

Our cupboards are full to overflowing

Our walls a patchwork of kitsch and cross-stitch and dishes in plate holders

Our closets bulge like the waistline of a potbellied sheriff

Our counters are cluttered

Providing little space to make grandma’s old fashioned sugar cookies

Our attics bow and bend

Under the weight of who-knows-what—stuff:

Generational memories, photo albums

With cellophane panels that

Year-by-year invite acid to eat away like cancer

The very images we hope to save.

Magazine and newspapers:

A landing on the moon

A foreign war

An engagement, a wedding, a death—

An obituary complete with an out-of-date photo of some unknown relative?

Our basement shelves and garage cabinets are heaped high

With boxes stuffed with treasures of yesteryear, things that must be kept

Providing suitable habitat for ants, cockroaches, and mice

And in the corner a crumbling pressboard computer table

Complete with a pullout keyboard shelf, dangling dislocated

Like a bird with a broken wing

And a coffee-stained office chair

Only three of four black rollers attached.

Gadgets and Gameboys and Gizmos and a torn Gonzaga T-shirt.

Lord, help us!

What we don’t need for Christmas is more stuff!


What we don’t need at Christmas is more credit card debt

Buying something unneeded to assuage our guilt for not being present

In the lives of our elderly parents, busy children, or on-the-move grandchildren.

What we don’t need is another

Sweater or knickknack or kitchen whatchamacallit

Or even another children’s Newberry-Award-winning book

that can be borrowed from the library.


What we don’t need for Christmas is another opportunity to gorge ourselves

On a banquet that in most places around the world would feed a village.

Didn’t we just do this a month ago at Thanksgiving?

For heaven’s sake, we are barely over our last turkey coma.


What we don’t need for Christmas is another religious holiday hollow of meaning.

Oh, gathering with family can be wonderful, enjoyable, and sometimes even fun

But such assemblages can become a petri dish for stress-filled grumbling and griping.

Christmas is more than tinsel, trees,

The dated Hallmark ornaments of Snoopy or Santa or a red songbird in the cold

It is more than nativity sets and snow globes and

Iconic Norman Rockwell images of tired parents and expectant children

Of a bike assembled leaning up against the plain wall and presents wrapped just in time.

It’s more than that, right?


And, while I am thinking about it,

What we don’t need for Christmas is another Jesus—

Ceramic or plastic or stuffed with fluff

A Jesus we can hold in our hands and manipulate for our benefit

What we don’t need this Christmas is a Jesus we can control

Or commodify or compartmentalize

What we don’t need this Christmas is a Jesus who is more accepting of our excesses

of our habitual gift-giving and gift-receiving

of our gluttonous self-absorbed consuming.

What we don’t need this Christmas is a genie-in-a-bottle Jesus

Who lives to service our wants and needs and panders to our slightest whim.


No, what we need this Christmas is a new, fresh, and vital understanding of the Incarnation

A Jesus who left glory beside the Father to come among us,

To live, to risk, to teach, to model Kingdom authority, power, and,

Paradoxically, to suffer and die:

Visibly like us

Vulnerably with us

Victoriously for us.

John M. Johnson

Cairo, Egypt – 2021


The poem is reprinted with permission from John Johnson.

Recent Posts
  • Paul and Kathy Bentley

    This is right on.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Us

Send us a note. Please include the best way for reaching you.

Start typing and press Enter to search

Technician providing pregnancy ultrasound