You knew it would eventually come to this.
The insidious, incessant merchandizing of Christmas has led to what is possibly the definitive example of Christ’s birth being overtaken by commerce. Porsche Design has unveiled a $1 million Advent calendar.
The brushed-aluminum “calendar” stands nearly six feet tall and includes 24 windows, each concealing a token relating to a luxury item from Porsche Design. Among the prizes is a stopwatch that, according to a Porsche press release, offers the “perfect synthesis of innovative technology and precise craftsmanship;” a modular design kitchen; and a speedboat. No wonder Victoria’s Secret recently upped the price on its annual holiday bra to $2 million. What’s next? A $3 million nativity teddy?
My instinct is to laugh this sort of stuff off rather than get too bothered by it. Yet after reflecting about the Porsche calendar some more, I wonder if both reactions are missing something. Might a $1 million Advent calendar be true – in its own distorted way – to the concept of Incarnation after all?
Retellings of Christ’s birth usually emphasize the humble surroundings: the simple manger, lowly shepherds, silent night and all. We nod to the Wise Men – that’s one way to justify the frantic gift-giving that now defines the season – but they’re usually the supporting actors in every nativity play, if they make an appearance at all.
In all this meekness and humility, however, do we miss out on the lavishness of the gift God bestowed upon the world when he sent his son? No presents – not even those of the Wise Men – can compare.
Of course, a $1 million Advent calendar can’t compare either, but it certainly gets our attention. The very idea is so ridiculous, so ludicrous, that it reminds me of the extravagance that is the gift of Jesus Christ. A father sacrifices his son, a son sacrifices his immortality, all for the ragged, broken, ungrateful likes of us. That sort of thing doesn’t fit under a tree or in a six-foot, brushed-aluminum box.
Are there better Advent calendars out there? Certainly (including this one from our colleagues at Kids Corner). Could $1 million be used more responsibly and in advance of God’s kingdom? Without a doubt. If I knew someone with $1 million to spare – and if that person would bother to listen to the likes of me for financial advice – I’d steer them in a different direction. Chocolates are always nice.
Still, I appreciate the Porsche stunt for reminding me of something I sometimes forget this time of year: Jesus’ birth was a wildly unreasonable gift that this world, despite its looniest efforts, will never match.