Have you heard? This year many retail mega-stores are opening their Black Friday sales Thanksgiving morning. This move encourages the narrative of: skip the work of shopping for a big meal, having conversations with family members, and playing the annual family football game. Come spend Black Friday weekend (Thursday-Sunday) with “us” (megalomaniac retailers). Last year the weekend garnered $50.9 billion worth of retail purchases by 247 million shoppers.
It’s amazing to me that we live in a world where that is a reality.
The narrative of a retail event like Black Friday weekend is broken. What if we could embrace a new narrative? What if that new narrative is really an old narrative just seen with new eyes?
This weekend, the global church is starting Advent, which is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. However, we live in a world where Jesus has already entered. How should our lives look different in response to that and as a church be part of bringing the kingdom of God to earth in this Christmas season?
Let me explain.
I love Apple products. When I was in high school I got the iPod Mini in silver and was ecstatic with my 4 GB of storage. Green Day and Nirvana instantly filled my hard drive. My angsty teen punk-rock phase was given the mobility of Apple's slick interface and I was hooked. A couple years later, the iPod video came out and I “HAD” to buy it. You know, to watch all those videos that 16-year-olds have before social media became a thing.
I love Apple products. Having said that, every product release they do and every time I see crews of people lining up to be the "first owners of the new product" — or even every Black Friday — I am reminded of something.
We feel inadequate. So we buy. All in a desire to feel full. All in a desire to feel complete. All in a desire to feel whole.
What if we used this Advent season to redeem some of those broken narratives and invest in the Kingdom of God on earth?
A few years ago the church where I am employed as a youth pastor put out a re-adventing Christmas guide. I’ve included some of our ideas in the following.
As a call to choose compassion over consumption, I encourage you in this season to:
- Worship Fully: Christmas is entirely about our celebration of Christ's birth. He deserves celebration – one that is creative, compassionate, and directs every heart towards him.
- Spend Less: This isn't a call to stop giving gifts; it's a call to stop spending money on gifts we won't remember, that harm our neighbor in production, and that build up waste.
- Give More: We follow the model of Jesus who gave his life for us, celebrating Christmas by giving gifts with intention and integrity.
- Love All: By spending just a little less on gifts, we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help.
Instead of buying a tangible present, what about buying a gift for another in need in the name of someone you love? You could even align your gift with a need your recipient is passionate about!
Our purchasing power doesn’t end after Christmas. We are called to use our God-given resources wisely — but also with grace (not every purchase can be perfection!). Ethical shopping can seem like a daunting task, but we hope that as you prayerfully consider ways to change shopping habits, these websites, books, and apps make it easier — year round. Check out apps like Better World Shopper, Free2Work, and The 3/50 Project for a start.
My prayer for you this Christmas season is that your pursuit of Jesus leads you to shop, give, eat, and serve more worshipfully. Love extravagantly. Give radically. Serve freely. May the peace of Christ rule in your heart during this season of fullness.