This year I thought I would take the opportunity to write an Advent message to you all. I am writing this during what has come to be known as ‘Black Friday’. This is a day set aside for our most favourite of human activities ‘shopping’. A recent import from the USA, Black Friday, offers the short term hope of cheap bargains, just in time for Christmas. The irony is, is that this day of cut price goods, is set just after the USA’s Thanksgiving Holiday when they give thanks to God for what they have. There’s nothing like saying thank you than late night queues, and rugby tackling mobs as you grab for that ginormous TV to make your life complete.
My own cynicism aside, I can see why people want a bargain, especially when there is so much pressure to get the latest toys for our children and the latest gadgets for the dads. We often bemoan that we are becoming far too commercialised in our society and much more so as we approach Christmas. We feel that Christ Jesus gets crowded out by the tinsel and trimmings of ‘stuff’ that no one really needs and is here one day and gone the next.
We can moan about this all we want, and we will, but maybe there is a deeper underlying issue here that causes, what can only be seen, as a desperate grabbing for a better life. This is what I think is happening with scenes of people fighting over TV’s as if they are going to be the life saving thing that we all need.
We are all searching for some fulfilment and meaning in our lives. We want something to fill the aching void that we can so often feel and this is true also for Christians. We use many things to fill the void in order to make our lives count. Who can blame our society when we look around and all we see is the relentless push of economics being touted as the saviour of the world? If our society is built around economic success, then no wonder people will want to buy things in order to feel good about who they are. Our whole identity is focussed around what we buy. This is the story, the narrative of 21st century Western Society.
As Christians, we are aware of a different kind of story, one that isn’t based on how successful you are in business, or how much money you have, or what you own, or what you can buy. The other story, God’s story, is based on relationships. It is an economy of love. At Christmas we are reminded of this different story. We are reminded that this story is not primarily played out in the palaces and powerhouses of the world, but in the lives of ordinary people. We are reminded that the gift that comes to us is God himself, vulnerable, helpless and poor. The King of all that is and ever will be, leaves the prestige behind in order to make himself known to us. In a borrowed stable salvation comes amongst the mess of the animals and the mess of the world.
He grows to be that shepherd who longs to guide the sheep away from a grabbing economy to a giving economy and eventually, on that ‘other’ Black Friday gives himself for us all.
I was at a conference earlier in the year and heard a lady say that she felt people needed to know a different identity than the ‘I shop, therefore I am’ one. They need to know the story of God’s love for them, told and acted in a million different ways. In order to know a different story, they need to be shown a different story and who better to ‘show and tell’ it than those of us who have already met with Jesus and been affected by him.
So May you travel through Advent with the deep knowledge that Christ Jesus loves you. May you wake each morning knowing that your life is part of a different economy, the economy of grace and love. May you share this different story with your friends, family and neighbours and may you arrive at Christmas morning deeply filled with the presence of Jesus in your life and ready to receive him once again as your King.
With Peace and Love