The busiest shopping day of the year is now over but the shopping season has just really begun. I have been doing quite a bit of thinking concerning shopping and things like that lately.
My thinking got started because of my goal to not buy anything that we don't need this year which has caused me to realize just how little we really do need. Just how little everybody in our country needs. Most of us are abundantly and sometimes rather overwhelmingly blessed. We often have more stuff than we know what to do with. What is it then that prompts us to keep buying?
My pondering continued after I caught a couple of ads on the radio one day while driving (I rarely listen to the radio or watch TV which causes me not to hear ads very often - for which I am thankful) and was disgusted to find that most of them had the theme of "What do you want?" "What will make you happy?". They spoke of coming into buy gifts for others but then dwelt on the idea of getting something for yourself that you really want since possibly nobody else did. Also mentioned was buying gifts for yourself while shopping for the others. The focus is all ME, ME, ME!
And then comes the new tradition of doing all the "Black Friday" shopping on Thursday - THANKSGIVING DAY instead. Thanksgiving Day is probably our neatest holiday - one in which the focus is supposed to be on being Thankful for all that God has blessed us with as well as a wonderful time to spend with family. But now many have chosen to turn it into a time of focusing on what we want rather than what we are thankful for.
It is very easy, I know, for us to get caught up in the consumerism of this time of year. If you get a newspaper (which we do) it comes packed with all sorts of ads. Ken was looking through the Black Friday ads this year and the kids decided to join him and pretty soon they were seeing all sorts of things that they "needed" - I mentioned that maybe we should just put those away and Ken was quick to agree saying "there just isn't anything in there that we really need". The ads are put there- in newspapers, catalogs, on TV, on the radio to make us want what they are trying to sell. When we expose ourselves to long or to often to them it is pretty easy to fall into their trap. Some of the things we do is to get rid of ads very promptly when they come into our home. We don't watch television very often nor listen to the radio very often - all of that helps us to have less exposure. We are also blessed to have a network of friends that aren't always focused on having the latest and greatest or great amounts of stuff so our kids rarely see excess consumerism being acted out right before their eyes either.
Instead of focusing on the catalogs, etc. that are full of things that "we want" how about pouring over a Catalog from IDES or World Vision that offers things that you can buy (such as chickens, blankets, cooking pots, food, etc.) for those that really truly need something? This is a very fun way to teach children to focus on others rather than themselves. Packing shoeboxes to send through Operation Christmas Child has been another fun way to focus on others rather than on ourselves.
If you do still want to exchange some gifts within your family (something we do enjoy), what about making handmade gifts - something that can provide an opportunity to work together to create something special for someone else. Another idea is to give gifts that actually do fulfill a need or to give a gift that is for an experience rather than "stuff". Hopefully something that will promote close relationships in your family. My goal is that in our home we can focus on relationships and how to improve them - rather than on stuff.
These are just some thoughts that I have been having concerning consumerism, our culture and the Christmas season. I am working to have the right focus in our home - something that seems to me a bit of a balancing act at times. This is something that will vary from family to family and I certainly don't expect you to do everything the way that we do. I just hope that perhaps in sharing my thoughts it would encourage you too to step back and check out what your focus is and make sure that first of all your focus is on Jesus.