At the heart of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, is an invitation to seek ecological conversion.
For the Holy Father, that means a commitment to embrace a spirituality which rejects the consumerism which dominates modern culture in favour of putting God at the centre of our lives, knowing that God can only truly satisfy the longings of the human heart.
Making that commitment has implications for the way we live our lives every day of the year, but especially at Christmas which, for many, has become a festival of extreme consumerism.
Christmas can be a joyful time without surrendering ourselves to excessive consumption and materialism.
Why not start with some simple changes this year and build on that each year as you reflect on what you have been doing and how you live your life?
Think before you shop for gifts and food. Avoid giving too many gifts. Prioritise gifts that do not exploit people, that do not abuse fragile ecosystems and do not need to be transported long distances. Think about how much is thrown away including packaging and wrapping. Even better, offer services instead of objects as a gift, e.g., offering to mow the lawn for a month or to give a massage. Perhaps, decide as a family not to give each other gifts and, instead, make a joint donation to a charity, overseas aid organisation, a refugee service, or an environmental organisation.
With your Christmas meal, put an emphasis on using locally grown produce wherever possible and minimising waste. Some estimates suggest that as much as 40% of Christmas food is thrown away.
Don’t forget people who are isolated or who struggle with life. Maybe, you could invite someone who lives alone and has no family nearby to your Christmas celebration. Many people also choose to volunteer at the many community Christmas lunches organised by community and church organisations in cities and towns across the country.
Instead of going to the Boxing Day sales, plan a trip to the park or a walk in a national park if you are able.
There’s much more you can do, but you get the idea. All it takes is setting aside a little time to reflect on how you are celebrating Christmas. Decide on a few changes and make a start.
Take some time to pray too. Ask God for the help and inspiration you need to end those practices and behaviours which tend to enslave us. Invite Christ who became human just like us to replace our longing for stuff with a longing for a simple and sustainable life, for justice and peace in our world and for a commitment to caring for our common home.
You will also find many guides for living Laudato Si’ at Christmas on-line. Here’s just one produced by the Laudato Si’ Movement: