People pour into stores snatching up the latest gizmos, gadgets, toys, clothes, stuff. Because don't we all need just a little more stuff? It's one of the biggest 'shopping' days of the year as retailers compete for the first real burst of Christmas shopping insanity. And it's insane alright. The scenes look like a bunch of crazed, starving animals attacking their prey. The prey is the stuff and the prey is each other. Websites have "Black Friday Death Counts", a woman attacks her neighbour with pepper spray for the best TV, a man is shot (yes, SHOT) for a parking space. Crowds push down doors at Wal-mart, kill an employee, and trample elderly women and children. All this for a waffle maker on sale. Or an X-Box at a 'door breaker' price. And yep, the door was broken.
And so are the souls.
Yeah, there's a reason it's called Black Friday, friends.
Because greed? Greed is always, always black. The darkness of all darkness is found in the emptiness of consumption, pleasure, and entertainment. This want for more stuff of this world - it always leads to that deep black space. In fact, the Word of God says the love of money - the love of STUFF - it's the root of all kinds of evil. So we blaze around like fools and we grasp at evil. There's no other way to put it. More for me, more for us, more, more, more of everything we don't need.
While we know, yes we KNOW people are starving. Right this very moment, children are starving to death while people fight to the death for the newest flat screen. And children are smuggled for dirty desires. And our sisters and brothers are abused so that we may have more of our cheap goods. Injustices reign supreme in the world of big retail - and when we swipe that card, we buy in to the big, bloody mess.
My heart has been aching lately, friends. I mean, really. Last year, I cried myself to sleep the day after Christmas when my soul broke in pieces for the greed I saw creeping into our children's hearts after the 'I WANT MORE' mentality of all those gifts. They piled high in the living room and on boxing day, they craved to shop for more.
And are we much better? We point to children but we are so much the same. A new wall colour, a new shirt, new shoes, new mud room, the latest kitchen gadget, a new mixer, and we can always find something we want. And once we get what we want, we want something else. Because greed and the thirst for more stuff is never, ever quenched. Ever. That is the nature of sin. The very life of greed is that it breeds more greed.
And the truth we all know is that true beauty - what really matters in this world can't be purchased at any store.
The kids and I watch videos from Gospel for Asia about how Christmas is Forgotten. The masses chant "KEEP CHRIST IS CHRISTMAS" when in reality, Christ was never in it to begin with. Very little about our conventional Christmas points to the Saviour at all. And if we would all dig a little deeper, we would see the roots of Christmas have absolutely nothing to do with God, Jesus, His birth or our salvation.
This year, we aren't putting up a tree or hanging sparkly lights. We aren't running around like maniacs buying the next thing we need to 'celebrate' or the best gift for each other. We are saying no to what this world says is unavoidable. Because we believe everything should be put through the fire of the Word of God. Everything should have to pass the gate of, "why do we do this, really?", and the door of, "what is the root of this tradition?"
And we've seen the roots and we've seen the whys and we believe a change is in desperately needed. And though in some ways it isn't easy and in many ways it isn't understood by others - we are choosing to be still. We are lighting a simple Menorah and reading the best book ever written and we are desperately clinging to truth. We are embracing the Festival of Lights when Christ Jesus Himself claimed to be the very Light of this world. And I can't help but see the contrast between the Light of Life and the Blackness of consumption which has become Christmas.
All of the world's a stage and the theme of the Western script is buy, buy, buy so you can find joy, joy, joy.
Keep on consuming until you're full to capacity and finally, you will be happy! Isn't that the North American billboard? But this is the crazy thing - it's an upside down paradigm where the very thing that is preached to bring peace, brings chaos and unrest at best and complete despair at worst. Once the fix of the next great deal is achieved, the feeling doesn't last. Just grasping, clawing for the next hit. And it is utter insanity and it is nowhere near what we are called to as Christ followers. We are actually called to the complete opposite lifestyle.
And we need to think deeper on the issue of Black Friday and this overall black consumption. It's not just about how it affects us or our children. It's about how it affects the soul of the world.
It's about how what we buy hurts our planet, our neighbour, and our neighour's children. It's about how almost all the mass produced products we buy are made by people who suffer greatly so that we can have our new iPad or camera or TV. Or our new clothes from brand name stores. Or toys from third world countries where little hands have screwed together the parts our children will roll along our new kitchen floors.
Tears roll down my cheeks and yes, the truth hurts. And my soul is crying out this year for change. For justice. I mean, that crazy GROANING the bible speaks of where only the Spirit can properly communicate your deepest heart twistings to the One who knows all and sees all.
And I can't ignore these deep pains any longer and I know it is the Holy Spirit whispering right back to me. Through that still, small, grace-filled voice I hear it: "Say no to the craziness and grasp on to something real. Grasp on to Me. Do not store up treasures on this earth because it will make you a slave to this earth. You are not of this world when you are in Me. Start living as I've called you to live. Do not be afraid. My way is always the best way..."
The frenzied buying that happens at Christmas (and all year 'round, for that matter) reminds me of a quote from C.S. Lewis:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Oh, how those words have pierced me deep. And right along with drink and sex and ambition we can so easily add greed and the lust for more material things. The things that promise immediate pleasure. And aren't we all far too easily pleased?
We grab at the stuff of this world when the Lord of all Light gives us real, unending, everlasting joy and life. When He says 'follow me' He doesn't mean to the shopping mall. He means to the slums. To the home in East Africa where children find hope after living alone on the street. To the well in India where women now find clean water for their babies and the very Living Water who can save their souls. To the hopeless and homeless. To the family table where children hear truth and feel warmth and know they are far more valuable than just getting piles of presents. That they are worth our time and our truth and our very soul longings to raise them up to know what is real and what brings fullness of joy.
Black Friday breeds a black saturday. And sowing greed brings a harvest of a lust for more stuff and less Jesus and less of what actually matters. We need to break free from the nonsense and stand against the lie that buying stuff will fill us up.
Simple as that. And then, we need to model it and teach these truths to our children. Because buying junk we don't need never fills, it empties.
I can't wait to share with you how our family has felt led to shake it up this year... more is coming this week offering ideas and (hopefully!) inspiration for making this year a very different 'holiday' season for you and your loved ones. All is a big pile of wonderful grace, friends.