As Dec. 25 draws nears, let’s not let the religion of crass consumerism overshadow the real reason Christmas is—or should be—celebrated.

Giving gifts and advancing the economy are certainly good things in and of themselves. But they shouldn’t obscure the real purpose of Christmas: To celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (Lk. 2:11) and why he came to dwell among us (Jn. 1-3:14, 29).

Buying useful items at good prices is also commendable. But if the commercialization of Christmas leads us to miss the ultimate price the Prince of Peace came to pay for us, we will become impoverished in a much more profound way.

As consumerism has increased in recent decades, outward expressions of Christmas have decreased. Holiday lights are everywhere, but crèches—which feature the Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph—have become less common, whether on residential lawns, in permissible forums at public parks, at various businesses, and even in front of churches.

The birth of a child is something normally celebrated. But this is no ordinary Child, because he makes demands on our lives and requires a response. While still in his infancy, Jesus is proclaimed a salvific “light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel,” and thus “a sign that will be contradicted” (Lk. 2:32, 34).

And so see we that the crib—beginning with a simple manger in Christ’s case—cannot be separated from the Cross, his Sacrifice of Calvary, the pinnacle of Jesus’ earthly ministry. As the great Archbishop Fulton Sheen was fond of saying, “You and I come into the world to live. . . . Christ, the Son of God, did not come into this world to LIVE. He came into it to DIE” (emphasis original).

Therefore, when Jesus tells us that we too must similarly die to ourselves and carry our own cross (Lk. 9:23-24), it is, as I’ve noted elsewhere regarding the intimately related Holy Eucharist, a “hard saying” (Jn. 6:60). But given that Jesus has “been there/done that” through his Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension, we can be sure that the love he gives will cast out all fear in perfecting us (1 Jn. 4:18).

The motto on our money says, “In God We Trust,” but Jesus conveys it can’t be a mere slogan. It must be a life-changing commitment and we must put mammon in its proper place (Mt. 6:24), especially during the commercialized Christmas season.

Do we trust Jesus? Will we trust Jesus? John Lennon famously sang, “Give peace a chance,” and Cat Stevens told “everyone [to] jump on the peace train.” But Jesus, the Prince of Peace, promises the incomparable and enduring peace that the world cannot give (John 14:27). Turn to him anew in his Church this Christmas, or go deeper in the Lord. Your life will never be the same.