So picture this … you’re standing outside of your favorite store at the mega, colossal, super stupendous outdoor lifestyle center (what used to be just a plain old mall) waiting for your ride to come pick you up.
It’s a city sidewalk, busy sidewalk, you’re dressed in holiday style (are you humming the melody of the familiar Christmas carol yet?!). In the air there’s the smell of hot pretzels. Children laughing, people passing, and you’re p.r.e.t.t.y sure those are smiles. And on every street corner you hear. Silver tongues … silver, forked tongues … ripe with sarcasm and frustration. Those ding-a-ling’s, can’t your hear them sing, “Yes, by all means, buy yourself that purse because it’s obiously the only way you’ll really get what you want for Christmas Daaaaaay!”
Sound more like fact than fiction?! If so, which person are you in that adaptation of the Christmas classic, “Silver Bells”?! The pressures, schedule and activity of your life don’t ever seem to take a day off anymore, and the “most wonderful time of the year” really isn’t, for an increasingly large number of people.
A few verses come to mind when I consider the consumerism and commercialism traps that are so easy to get caught in this time of year:
Cease striving, and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10 (NASB)
Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.
Matthew 6:19 (NLT)
It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Matthew 6:21 (The Message)
In the good instinct of giving, there are great “cancers” which exist just below the surface. It is more blessed to give, indeed, but like it always was with Jesus, the heart is the matter. To know someone well and know what gift would make their heart soar on Christmas morning is a good and noble pursuit. The lengths and expense you go in getting that gift, however, just might turn out to be cancerous. Pride, guilt and materialism can also be companions just below the surface in the act of giving. Some stop just short of a full press release in announcing their generosity or thoughtfulness to the recipient or their world. Some have expectations of reciprocity. Still others give as if the Jones’ were looking over their shoulder or with the express purpose of having the biggest story to tell during the post-Christmas water cooler debrief, and how about those who boast over their single item “steal” or extreme couponing savings bonanza.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are national holidays for these vices, and there is typically no shortage of footage on the local and national news in the aftermath. People storming brick and mortar stores for Cabbage Patch dolls seems like ancient history, and is pretty tame compared to today’s standards.
- Walmart employee trampled to death. (2008)
- Toys for Tots volunteer stabbed when confronting a man stealing from the donations outside a Best Buy in Georgia. (2010)
- A man in Massachusetts purchases a new flatscreen TV at K-mart, leaving his girlfriend’s 2-year-old in the car. Police later found the man back home watching his new TV, having left both the toddler and the car at Kmart. (2012)
Christmas is a season for giving, and there is nothing inherently wrong with blessing those you love with good and thoughtful gifts. Beware, however, of the urge to splurge. Cease striving, the Bible says. That phrase is literally translated, “relax.” Don’t be someone who busts down the doors for the door buster deals. Don’t store up treasures here, the Bible says. Don’t use stores to accumulate here-and-now sort of stuff. Invest your time and resources in serving others in ways that yield an eternal dividend. That is where our heart should be.
As you navigate this expectant season, keep your eyes on the miracle of His birth. Shop responsibly and remember that presence is far more valuable than presents (even a big ol’ pile of them). Be crazy generous, but don’t go into debt to do it. Reach out your hand to those in need and give from your whole self. Think simple acts of kindness. Think volunteering and serving. Think about making something rather than buying something. Give a gift that someone will love, not that others will be impressed by.
Make Christmas a blessed season, not a stressed season.
Let’s all sing together…
We three kings of Oriental Tra-ding are,
We shop online, don’t drive in a car.
Pens of fountain, plastic Mountains,
Gli-i-tter by the jar. Ohhh Ohhhhhh!
Star of glow sticks, star in white,
Star with string of LED lights.
Shoppers pleading, discounts needing,
Cyber deals til’ Monday night!