In Australia this Christmas, we spent $1 billion on unwanted presents. This further illustrates our society’s addiction to buying presents just for the heck of it at Christmas. As usual, the Murdoch press encourages people to have a whinge by prompting readers to tell them all about any shocker Christmas gifts they received. Thankfully only a couple of people have responded at the time of writing this post, and one of those was thankful for what they received.
It’s interesting that while we have returned so many presents, Boxing Day sales have been booming. One of the presents I received was Mark Sayers‘ brilliant book, The Trouble with Paris. In this book, Sayers talks about ‘hyper-reality’ and the fact that, living in a consumerist society, we now believe the marketers who say that that next item is going to solve all our problems, and that retail therapy is all the panacea we need when we’re having a bad day.
This financial crisis is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the church to make a very loud statement about the failures and the lies of the promises of consumerism. In a society that values ‘having’ Jesus says that life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions. In a society that values image and individualism, Jesus asks what will it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your self in the process? It also goes back further than that, to the prophet Samuel when God reminds him that people look at the externals but God looks at the heart. Nothing has changed except that which we worship. The void in the human heart needs to be filled. Where our treasure is there will our heart be also.
Will the church take up the challenge to proclaim the good news of Jesus in these times of turmoil for so many? Many people will be disillusioned by these times, not least many in the church who have bought the message of health, wealth and prosperity. Now is the time for the church to be the prophetic, counter-cultural community that so distinguished itself in the 1st century. Jesus’ message is good news indeed for He comes to free us from our slavery to stuff so we are no longer conformed to the pattern of this world but are transformed by the renewing of our minds.