It’s official: Christmas is coming! I know this to be true because I inadvertently stumbled into a store on “Black Friday!” I spent a great day with family on Thanksgiving. We enjoyed a fantastic meal, played fun games, went for a walk, and shared lots of laughter. Before we knew it, the evening was spent. Realizing it was nearing midnight, someone suggested that, rather than going to bed, we should all pile into our vehicles and check out some Black Friday sales. After my family pled with me to be its chauffeur, I gamely agreed to go. After all, I am as eager as the next guy to save some money.
I experienced a surprise. We arrived at 11:55 p.m. to discover long lines waiting outside each store. As the doors opened at the stroke of midnight, eager shoppers began pouring in like water through a weakened dam. The aisles were soon teeming with people grimly hauling kitchen appliances, clothing, and bedding toward the swamped check out counters. Now I am a pretty big guy and I have played my fair share of contact sports over the years, but the saturated aisles and aggressive deal-seekers soon overwhelmed me, and I was hurriedly making my way toward the nearest exit. Saving money did not seem as important at that moment as extracting myself from the stampede.
It’s not news to you that the Christmas season has become prime time for people to engage in the most unrestrained binge of consumerism. Even small children stand impatiently in line at malls to give Santa their wish lists. Billboards and TV ads bombard us with the materialistic gospel.
Our wish lists reveal much about our heart. So do our dissatisfactions. I recently heard of a young child who told her mother she didn’t need anything for Christmas, because she already had everything she needed. My first reaction was: Right! As if! That’s because I live in a society that is never satisfied. There is always more we could, and therefore should, have. (By the way, I think that little girl was serious!).
The Psalmist reviewed the history of God’s people. He declared that despite the fact that God had done so much for them, “They sinned even more against Him, by rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness. And they tested God in their heart by asking for the food of their fancy” (Ps. 78:17-18). Those ancient Israelites sound a lot like us! Even divine miracles were dissatisfying! They wanted what others had.
How did God respond? “He gave them their own desire. They were not deprived of their craving; but while their food was still in their mouths, the wrath of God came against them, and slew the stoutest of them” (Ps. 78:29-31). Sometimes God’s severest punishment is to give us what we crave and to withhold what we have not asked for.
As you enter a time of year that is meant to be sacred, but tends to be brazenly secular, consider your wish list. What is it that truly satisfies you? If God were to give you just one thing this Christmas, what would you want it to be?