This is the season of celebratory joy and light in the world. Increasingly, it is becoming a celebration of crass commercialism. This year the mixture reached a new low when I read this story about a mother who left her 2-year old son sleeping in her car to make a quick shopping trip.

A 39-year-old former preschool teacher drove her BMW up to the valet parking of a high-end mall in Scottsdale. She told the valet to watch the boy while she went shopping for a few minutes. She dashed into Neiman-Marcus to pick out a Christmas gift and some makeup, leaving the toddler sleeping but taking along her pocket-sized dog.

The parking valet reported her to mall security who, in turn, called the Scottsdale police. The woman is facing a court hearing on child endangerment charges, and Child Protective Services is now involved.

When this story appeared last week, it elicited tens of thousands of responses. Most expressed outrage, but some were sympathetic: for example, the child was sleeping soundly; it was the height of his nap time; she took the dog so it’s barking wouldn’t wake the child; and she did tell the valet instead of self-parking.

To me, it’s just another example of a culture whose obsession with acquiring things destroys judgment. A culture which determines what’s right by what you can get away with. And should poor judgment result in getting caught, just point your finger at something (or someone) other than yourself. For example, tell the hearing officers that at the time of the alleged incident, you were suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and are taking medication that can cause lapses in judgment.

It’s Christmas, Chanukah, Kwaanza — all celebrations of light for humanity. When we go shopping and leave behind that which is holiest in our lives, we are losing our humanity.

It’s Away in a Manger, not Away in a Beemer. Let’s get away from our self-absorption and conspicuous consumption and back into the spirit of these holidays that celebrate the human spirit.