Taking the SEX out of Sex-mas!

Source: Borrowed image from Advent Conspiracy | Click image to learn about how to give to a great cause!

Then one foggy Sex-mas Eve, Victoria came to say: Consumer with your eyes so wide, buy this bra and panties tonight.

Twenty-year-old young women wearing unmentionables stare into the camera saying: “Tell me you love me.  Tell me you want me.  Excite me.”  Getting your yuletide jollies yet?

Let’s be honest: the girls in the Victoria’s Secret commercial sound fake.  Their attempts at sexy come across as cheesy.  And if the nearly bare bosoms of consumerism haven’t bombarded you yet this Sex-mas season, consider yourself blessed.

Blessed.  There’s a person who believed herself to be blessed. Her story continues to be told each year.  It’s a story of hope, love, joy, and peace. And the mystery of it all: no sex.

Unfortunately, sex sells.  If not Victoria’s Secret, you might run into Mariah Carey as a scantly dressed Mrs. Claus in her “All I want for Christmas” music video. Sex appeals because it awakens the deepest consumer impulse of our being.  When sex fails as an expression of self-giving love, it triggers a self-interest driven desire to have.  In this way, sex and consumerism find a dynamic partnership. Perhaps this is why sex indeed does sell.  Consumerism is the power of “Sex-mas.”

The meaning of Christmas continues to be co-opted in various other ways in popular culture.  Honestly, much of this doesn’t bother me.  What non-Christ-followers say Christmas does or doesn’t mean to them is not my concern.  What frustrates me is when I see Christians complaining about how “secular culture” reduces Christmas to one of many “holidays,” and yet they continue to spend more money on Christmas décor than on the concerns of the poor. The meaning of Christmas for many evangelicals is rooted in defending a belief about an event, rather than the application of that event in our daily lives.

We Christians have fallen into the trap of Sex-mas. No, we may not believe that Victoria Secret or any other company that uses sex to sell should be supported by our credit cards, but we consume as though driven by libido.

The story of a young Virgin giving birth to a humble King reminds us of the wonder of the first Christmas.  Before Sex-mas took over the church’s imagination, the presence of Christ in the world (the Christ of the Mass) compelled us to give in the way he gave. Christ gave himself to the world.  He was born, battered, and abused by the very world he came to rescue.  Our invitation is to model this sort of self-giving love to our friends, family, and world.

We don’t need to force the rest of our culture to “put the Christ back into Christ-mas” or to say “merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays.”  This country isn’t a Christian nation and so we must learn how to live at peace with those who may not yet follow Jesus.  Beyond this, however, the people of God might do well to recognize those moments during Advent when we fail to incarnate Christ in the world because we give into the lure of Sex-mas.  We may not like the ads, but we sure like the stuff they make us crave.

The only way to take the Sex out of Sex-mas is to deny our consumption impulse and to show the world around us the incarnated Christ. Then and only then will we have won the battle for Christmas.  Not by defeating secular culture, but by confronting our own Sex-mas drive.

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Here’s a great way to subvert the Sex-mas drive.  Partner with Mennonite Central Committee to: Give Hope or Give Peace or Give Water or Give Health or Give Livestock or Give Education or Give Relief

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  • http://twitter.com/benyamen Ben Kramer

    About 4 years ago my family stopped giving gifts to each other at Christmas.  We might still give some candy in the stocking over the fireplace but it’s just a treat to enjoy over the holidays.  We’ve come to the conclusion that we will give gifts to and celebrate whoever is celebrating their birthday.  On our family birthdays they get presents and lots of celebration for them, on Jesus birthday celebration we give gifts to him and celebrate him.

    We now use the resources we would have used for gifts for each other instead to buy gifts through the World Vision catalogue to provide for the needs of entire villages.  I don’t think I’ve ever received a gift more meaningful than knowing that instead of me getting an ugly tie I could give immunizations for a whole village.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @twitter-20219029:disqus … thats a touching example.  Thanks for sharing about your family practices around this issue.  As one who is married, without kids at this point, there’s still time to shape our household rituals and this comment gives me something to think about.

  • Tucker M Russell

    This is a fantastic post, Kurt.  One of your best. 

    The juxtaposition of the virgin birth with the sexualized Christmas ads is striking and poignant.  Wish I’d thought of it! 

    The link you draw from the sexual imagery to consumerism is a good one.  I would love to hear more development of the idea that sex can be either self-giving love or selfish consumption. 

    I especially like your payoff at the end.  We as a church spend so much time worrying about how and whether the sociey around us is celebrating Christmas, and the minutia of their words, when we should be worried about incarnating the Love of God to the world around us.  A thousand amens to that.  

    However, I also would point out that this could be a case of “the right text is needed for the right situation.”  I think this post is absolutely appropriate for the dominant American and evangelical culture.  But as someone who work with persons who have been told from a religious perspective that they should be ashamed of and feel guilty about every sexual impulse, I am actually preparing a blog post about how the Incarnation, God taking on human flesh, affirms the goodness and holiness of sexuality (along with all that is human).  By becoming human in Christ, God has chosen not only  to have genitals, but more than that to experience loneliness and the desire to connect with other humans, the comfort of human touch. And this affirms those parts of humanity as God-given.   I don’t think that your post disagrees with that, just a case of needing a different emphasis for a different audience. 

    I would also think some development could be done on how those Vicoria’s Secret ads promote sexism and heteronormatism.  But that is for another day. 

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @3eb5ab61432db8dda7c1d7aeb9f26264:disqus … good thoughts.  I think that you are right (once again) on the audience issue.  Also, I would ad that my qualifier stands as the crux of my argument… the distinction that you point out: “When sex fails as an expression of self-giving love, it triggers a self-interest driven desire to have.”Self-giving love is sex in the confines of covenant relationship.  Self-interest driven desire to have would entail the “lust” impulse.  I see these as two radically different approaches to sexuality.Thanks again for your kind words bro!

      • AmyS

        Don’t you mean “Thanks again…brah!”? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • http://restorativetheology.blogspot.com Brian G.

    Oh what an awesome post! The only thing I would add is that taking the “sex” out of “sex-mas” for Christians in this culture requires dramatic shifts in understandings of human sexuality. The only reason sex and consumerism play nice in American society is a prior understanding of sex as primarily individualistic and utilitarian. Biblical-theological accounts of human sexuality are anything but, focusing instead on covenant and community.

    I recommend Matthew Anderson’s new book, “Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith,” for a great re-shifting along these lines.

    Thanks, Kurt!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.ekk Jason Ekk

    Great Post!

  • KingsofZion

    Someone should probably let Victoria know that she really doesn’t have any secrets at this point.  Ha, ha

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Harding/100000773236424 Matthew Harding

    Hey Kurt, you sound really close to OWS there! (Or OWS sounds very close to the Christian ethos) I’ve been doing a bit of thinking lately (!) and what you write certainly strikes a chord with me. The only two ways to abide in/with Christ is by loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself. It would be a very different world if we put off our habitual conspicuous consumption and focused on others for a change.  

  • Willhouk

    Great post Kurt. I was looking up images for a project I was doing the other day and I was  frustrated by the fact that even an incredulous search term brought up images of “hot Christmas chicks.” Scantily clad Santas and what not. Christmas can be a great time of reflection on why Jesus came, I agree we need to really focus on that. 

  • AmyS

    Timely post for me. I’m preparing to preach the 4th sermon in our Advent series which has been based on chapter 4 of the book of Ruth. In that story, besides the reference to the sexuality of Naomi, and Ruth, and Boaz (noticed as the plot of the narrative is moved forward by the need for human reproduction to bring about a legitimate heir for Elimelech), the narrative winds up with a very strange (to my ears) blessing for Boaz (regarding his imminent marriage to Ruth): 

    “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah…may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

    In all of these narratives (Rachel/Leah, Tamar/Judah, Ruth/Boaz) there are questionable sexual ethics at play. Women are bought and sold; Men take advantage of women in need; Women use their sexuality to manipulate men. It’s unclear who’s children belong to whom; And sexual/reproductive rights are traded like a commodity. And the end result of all this manipulation of sexuality gives birth to King David. [Granted: there is more to it, especially in cultural context. My contemporary ethics getting into the mix, but I don't think I'm completely off base.]

    Then, Luke’s genealogy links Jesus all the way back to Abraham, identifying the patrilineal heritage, and noting specific mothers along the way. Five women are mentioned, all of which have a story that highlights these issues of unconventional/unorthodox/unsanctioned sexuality (even while taking into account the Levirate marriage custom): Mary (knocked-up by the Holy Spirit–How bizarre is that?); Bathsheba (married to her rapist and her husband’s murder); Ruth (forced the issue of marriage by slipping under the covers with Boaz–at the instruction of her mother-in-law/pimp–taking ‘payment’ for her time with him in the form of a hefty portion of grain, and sneaking home early enough to avoid ‘the walk of shame’); Rahab (a prostitute by profession); and Tamar (tricked her father-in-law into impregnating her by impersonating a temple prostitute). 

    I’m not sure what all of this means or how I’m going to preach about it. Certainly, your post is meant to link the consumerism of secular Christmas rituals with the dehumanization of sexual exploitation and our failure to share with those in need–Our unrestrained and filthy idol worship that is mutually exclusive with the true religion that Jesus defines. 

    Thanks, Kurt, for the inspiration to work some of this out here. Any insights or reflections are invited.

    • KingsofZion

      I’ve been thinking about your post for several hours, and I think you were referring to Kurt Willems when you stated that insights or reflections are invited; but I found the topic thought-provoking so I’m hoping you won’t mind my input.

      How many of us have wondered these same things? I’m not exactly sure. Probably a lot.

      You know  AmyS  in so many of the examples mostly in the Old Covenant, there seems to be a pattern with God of dealing with people where they are. While fleeing from Egypt, the Israelites were afraid to go one-on-one with God;  so, he communicated to them through Moses.  When he wanted to be there God, they insisted on a human king.  Fear was an overwhelming obstacle to faith for most.  Being offered a direct relationship with God was too much for them. The reasons for this could make-up entire conversations on their own.

      You quoted the scripture above with regard to Rachel and Leah. I believe this was God relating to the people according to their mindset. They had ideas about what they wanted in this life, and as above God related to them on their own level.  The women in these stories didn’t even seem to know how to want it better. I’m thinking they didn’t even see options other than what their own experience and mindset was able to come up with for them.

      Christ took the shame because God perceived that was our problem among other things in relating to Him. I can’t help but wonder how things would’ve gone if Israel had sought God for how He wanted things done rather than themselves. But, then again, even all of that’s been taken into account. 

      This also makes me reflect on how God can work things out for good in spite of our weakness in relating to Him. His permissive will brought about His perfect will (Christ).  They sort of intertwine and that’s what makes Him God and so phenomenal….balanced gracefully in the center between Calvinism and Armenian theologies.

      I guess He would like us to function at a higher level. That would be a good message to get out of things.

      p.s. I’m sure Mary’s conception experience can’t be compared to a normal one.

      God bless you, and I hope your sermon goes well. helen

  • Nlq_711

    hello,do you mind if I translate your article into Chinese and put it in the blog, with signing your name?

  • AmyS

    So few comments! I think folks must be shopping at the mall tonight.


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