Most of us have just completed the most frantic shopping season of the year. For many people, including many faithful Orthodox Christians, the weeks leading up to Christmas see a wave of buying, in an effort to meet some hope that our gift-giving and entertaining will somehow fill empty hearts of the people we love, at least for a while.
At those times at which we are really paying attention, we know that this is an empty promise: shopping does not fulfill us, and often frustrates us. Furthermore, the gifts we give and receive, while often given out of love, can never fill our hearts, even if they meet some practical need. While a gift may demonstrate our thoughfulness, or even demonstrate our help toward those we love, it cannot address the roots of our spiritual struggle. No mall is big enough to do that.
One of the great blessings of celebrating Old Style Christmas is its divorce from the commercial culture. By the beginning of January, even Boxing Day sales are a memory, and our consumer appetites are satiated, much like our bellies after excess feasting. Whatever the world offers us is fine in moderation (as my Grannie would always say), but by early January, we are ready for something more: we are ready for something - indeed Someone - that the world cannot give us.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of feasting and shopping is that they cannot ever truly satisfy us at the deepest level - only Christ can do that. As we begin a new year, let us resolve therefore to stop seeking bread which does not satisfy us, and to seek more and more the True Bread that brings us lasting fulfilment, and lasting satisfaction.
As credit card bills roll in from the December spending spree, let us resolve to spend less time at the mall - eating spiritual sawdust, if you will - and to instead invest more time each day, a planned time, reading the Holy Scriptures, the Fathers, or in prayer, that we may reap the satisfaction of the spiritual life more and more.
All this, with the assurance that the bill has already been paid.