Last weekend, I foolishly ventured into a local shopping mall in search of a new pair of blue jeans for myself. I was somewhat aware that the Christmas shopping season was upon us, so I entered directly into the department store’s side entrance and made my purchase. Before I left, I decided to peek into the mall’s interior.
I guess I was unprepared for what I saw.
Hundreds—maybe thousands—of people, young and old, were shuffling from store to store, with little kids and big bags in tow. The interior was bedecked with the most remarkable, sparkly holiday decorations one can find, which ironically belied the mall’s drab 1980s exterior just off the 10 Freeway. The whole scene was Christmasfied, and it fueled the burning need—a palpable urgency—to buy, buy buy! It seemed as if everyone were racing the calendar to reach December 25 first, sprinting in every direction to get just the right gift as the ultimate demonstration of one’s love for family and friends.
As I think back on the spectacle, I can close my eyes and imagine myself taking a majestic, prophetic stance at the top of the escalators, raising my arms like Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments, and declaring with great force and conviction, “People of the Purchase: You are the 99 percent! And it is you who are feeding the beast!”
Snapping back to reality, I remember that I too will give gifts to my loved ones this Christmas, and I should take care in my judgment of others. But I am going to rethink what those gifts might be, and where they come from, and what I intend for them to mean for those who receive them.
How do I truly show love to those around me, not only during this time of year, but throughout all seasons of life?
Of course, I’m not the first to think about Christmastime consumerism (and I hope I’m not the last). But it does make me wonder how I can give gifts differently. It may mean buying local and sustainably produced gifts that spread the benefits of their production throughout a local community. And it may mean investing more of my time than my money in preparing a gift. It may mean giving different kinds of gifts altogether (I recently had the opportunity, for example, to mark a special occasion by passing down my father’s pocketknife. This was far more meaningful than anything I could have purchased at the mall.)
But most importantly, it calls into question how we love each other—not only how we express love, but how we truly love those around us, throughout the year.
So in this Christian season of Advent, as we anticipate and celebrate the coming of Eternal Love to the world, may we also reflect on bringing about Enduring Love in the world, throughout the year, forever and ever.