Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
– Conformed (under the sun) vs Transformed (under the Son) –
Driving through Fayetteville on my way home Thanksgiving evening, I was absolutely amazed at the hoards of people that had arrived early at WalMart for the Black Friday sale. The parking lot was already full, and cars were pulling out to look for a space in the lot of the shopping area adjacent. A few things came to mind after I finally made it through the traffic and onto 540. First, as I am not fond of a normal days’ WalMart crowd, I was very thankful that I was not there. Second, I couldn’t help but pray that there wouldn’t be any major incidents like there has been in the past around America. Selby’s cousin Gina had made a comment over Thanksgiving dinner that other countries must think that some of the stories are made up. I mean, really? Fights that break out over toys and electronics? Some of these news reports just sound concocted, don’t they? Last, I couldn’t help but wonder how we got to this point. We went from stores opening at normal time on Black Friday, to really early Friday morning, to really, really early Friday morning, late Thursday evening, to 7 Thursday evening? Are we so in need of that deal that we forgo even 5 precious hours that we could potentially be spending with family to wait til even midnight to open the stores? We may think it gives us more time to shop, but what about the employees who have to work those hours?
Do we really need the stuff we buy at these sales? Solomon in Ecclesiastes explained well what the mindset of someone who is apart from God (under the sun), and lives as though this life is all there is. 1:2 “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”3 What does a man gain for all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? 4 A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” And then he also gives his version of ‘he who dies with the most toys still dies’, “2:4 I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them. 6 I constructed reservoirs of water for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees…8 I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces…10 All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles. This was my reward for all my struggles. 11 When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun.” It didn’t matter how much wealth (a.k.a. stuff) was acquired, there was still something missing… And there will still be – if a life continues to be filled up with things that don’t really add up or matter in the long run.
Do the people we are buying gifts for really need the items we buy? I ask this last question because I know that oftentimes Black Friday is used as a tool for gift buying, and since it is the day after Thanksgiving, it is often viewed as the official ushering in of the Christmas season (although some would argue it’s sooner). How many times have you worried over finding someone ‘just the right gift’, concerned that you would either not find it on time, or that the person would not enjoy what you gave them? We have this society stolen, and at the same time self-inflicted excised joy of gift giving, and I don’t know how it happened.
Understand that I am not saying that Black Friday or Christmas shopping of any kind in and of itself is a bad thing. I just can’t help but wonder sometimes if we have lost the wonder of the Christmas season. Have we become so immersed in this world that we have absorbed its lack of amazement for the reason for Christmas? We have begun to view it as a time to receive the stuff we want and spend less time focusing on the ultimate gift that has already been given to us. What about that first Christmas gift?
When you consider the sacrifice that Christ made to come to us, it really puts things into perspective. He first gave up His heavenly home to come to us in the form of a babe, in the care of earthly parents, surrounded in flesh to dwell among us, experiencing what we deal with on a daily basis, yet without sin. This was all necessary that He could be the perfect redeeming sacrifice for us by death on the cross. The gift was wrapped in a bow when He rose on the third day, conquering death and making the way possible for us to someday be raised with Him. He came that we “might have life more abundant.” Here on earth and with Him in death – we are the reason for His gift…
When you take the time to consider what the gifts we give at Christmas represent, does it not make them mean a bit more? If you thought about the gift of Christ with each gift you receive, would you be even more appreciative of what was given?
My Mom still, even now that we are all grown and out of the house, asks us each year for a Christmas list. This helps she and Dad when they shop for us and also for the grandkids. I find each year that it is increasingly harder to think of items to put on that list. Now understand, I am far from perfect when it comes to material desires, but when anyone asks, “What do you want for Christmas this year?”, I have a very hard time answering. You can chalk it up to getting older, but I pray that it’s because what it happening is that I am maturing in the Lord, and getting more out from under the sun and a little more under the Son. Because the things that I really want for Christmas this year will be on my Christmas list for years to come. They cannot be bought in a store and cannot be placed in a gift bag or box. One thing is for our world to be at peace. This may never come to bear until our Lord returns, but if that is when it will happen I say “Come, Lord Jesus, Come”. Next, I want to be able to spend time with family and friends, for there to be no conflict, and for everyone to be happy and healthy. Another, is for my love for my husband and his for me to only increase with each passing year. He’s truly a blessing to me, and I thank God for him. Lastly, that I will be able to grow in my relationship with God, that my love for Him will deepen, and that I will never take for granted the gift that He gave to me so that I can have life and have it more abundantly.
So, as we enter this Christmas season, may we dwell on the reason for it. Let us not get wrapped up in what the world says the season is about or even what it isn’t. May we consider each gift given and received being a representation of the ultimate gift given to us. I think in light of this – no matter what it is – in our eyes it will be good, acceptable, or perfect.