Christmas was here and is gone for another year, but the truth is it was barely distinguishable from any other holiday. Mostly, we no longer celebrate the birth of Christ and this is true even for Christians. Christmas has become a holiday instead of a Holy day. More and more we send wishes that exclaim "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas!" And, while God's free gift of salvation to the entire world stands in stark contrast to the meaningless and often obligatory giving of today, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son ..." (John 3:16), December 25 and the days surrounding it are no more than an excuse to be off work, to travel, and to shop.
Ah yes, shopping! This favorite pastime has become akin to idolatry for some. Retailers are all too glad and greedy to supply the man-hours and so-called "bargains" to lure in the vulnerable consumer. It does not matter to the merchant that men and women who must provide for their families are flesh and bones families, sacrificing time with their loved ones to satisfy the seller's need for bottom-line profits. Some must compromise, but we compromise a lot now-a-days in America. "For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world." (I John 2:16, NLT)
While many purchases are necessary to repair or replace items that have deteriorated, trying to fulfill emotional needs through prideful purchases always leaves an empty void within the soul. Sadly, buying on impulse and misusing credit can also become like a drug that one craves. Habitual shopping then becomes the idol that we ask to satisfy our empty longings that only God can fill and satisfy. Stuff we buy does help our mood short-term, but often has long-lasting repercussions and can leave us filled with debt and regret. I know because I am a recovering shopaholic.
I've managed to stay focused on my goal to be debt-free. When I have succumbed, I've returned the item bought on impulse, after soul searching and repenting. I still have to avoid stores, sales, credit card offers, and newspaper ad-inserts, as I did in the beginning of my "SA" (shopaholics anonymous) recovery journey. Over many years, this method has worked! With God's help, prayer and much restraint I have managed to avoid the lure for instant gratification. I often ask myself this question, "Do I want to feed my flesh or do I want to feed my future?" I've had to distinguish between my needs and my wants and between my wants and my desires --even though this process is very discomforting to my emotions and my ego.
In Matthew 6:19-34, Jesus teaches much about material possessions. He said "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal." "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." We are commanded to first love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). Jesus continued to say that we cannot serve two masters; for we will hate one and love the other; and he tells us not to worry about everyday life. That is why we pray "give this day our daily bread."
Remember, we will not take any of our "stuff" with us when we die. If we "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, he will give you everything you need" (while we are here).
Happy New Year!
Elmendorf may be contacted at carmenvictoriaelmend...@yahoo.com