Christmas: Jesus or Stuff?
The world has made a promise to us. Their promise is this: If you want to be happy, you need to have this! Whatever “this” is. More stuff, equates to more happiness. You want to be happy? You want joy? Then you need to go out and get this thing!
We live in such a culture of consumerism. We can go to the store, the factory outlet, or the mall (well…do people really go to the mall anymore? I was at the Colonial Park Mall the other day and as we walked through this once vibrant establishment, an actual tumbleweed rolled by!) Nevertheless, we can go to these places of business, plop down some cash (rather whip out a plastic card) and walk away with more stuff to take home.
For many, that’s where they go to find joy. The question is: Is that where we will find the joy that we’re seeking? To put a spin on an old song – we’re looking for joy in all the wrong places. That’s because there’s a con going on, and we’re being sold a bill of goods. (No pun intended.)
In this short blog post, let me attempt to pull back the curtain and reveal what’s really going on. This is fascinating. Our brains are so intricately wired; which is a testimony to the creative genius of our God. The mere thought, or anticipation of acquiring more stuff, provides for us a quick “buzz”.
There is a quick momentary release of neurotransmitters – chemicals like dopamine and serotonin – which go straight into the limbic system of our brain (the pleasure center) and they produce the illusion of lasting joy and happiness. We get duped into thinking that feeling (and that’s what it is – a feeling) is going to be an ultimate experience.
“I will be happy if I just get ______________." When you do get that thing, the feeling you have, is short-lived at best. It doesn’t last. That’s why this experience is never truly satisfying.
We need to go back, again and again, to keep that steady stream of chemicals flowing into the limbic system. It’s a pursuit where you never really “find” that which you are seeking. You can never catch it and keep it. It’s quite allusive; and that’s what marketers know and thus capitalize on. They want to keep you coming back over and over again, spending your money on that which never ultimately delivers on what it promises.
Pop quiz! Quick…In your mind, name a Christmas present you received last year. Go!
Coming up empty?
Does that not speak to the fleeting pleasure which comes from acquiring more stuff? That thing that you were so looking forward to receiving last year at this time, you can’t even remember what it is.
The truth is, true joy (joy that lasts) is not found in having more trinkets, more gadgets, more devices, more assets, more possessions – more stuff!
Do you believe that’s true?
I will confess that I struggle with this. I get captivated by the latest gizmo – whatever’s out there on the market. The newest, latest thing. I’m part of the problem – but I’m not alone. Marketers know this about us. This is marketing 101.
The whole advertising industry is built upon the following premise: Dissatisfaction. They want to make you dissatisfied with what you already have. They show us that shiny new product and say you gotta have this, because what you currently have isn’t good enough.
And this sales pitch captures our attention – and like mindless robots we say – “Yes, you are correct. I must have this new product you are offering, otherwise my life will be incomplete.” We’re captivated by the allure of something that is being presented to us as a potential new possession. And once we get it, we think we will be satisfied.
However, the reality is even though the message is that you gotta have the newest, latest, hottest item (call it Gadget X), before you even get that thing home, Gadget X 2.0 is already in the pipeline on its way to the store. It’s a total chasing after the wind. Advertisers are leading us around by the nose, capitalizing and exploiting our own sinful desires of greed and covetousness. Meanwhile they are lining their pockets with a promise of ultimate joy and happiness – something on which they cannot deliver!
Try as you might, you won’t find lasting satisfaction and true joy in what this world has to offer you. You will always want more!
So if lasting joy isn’t found in this world, perhaps it’s something found outside this world. Maybe it’s something transcendent. Maybe true joy isn’t found in what this world has to offer, instead it’s found in what God has to offer. So what does He offer us? Himself.
He gives us the best present ever. He gives us Himself. God became a man, and He took on flesh, came to this earth, to a manger in Bethlehem, to fulfill a very specific mission. He came on a rescue mission to seek and to save the lost.
So, to conclude, as we talk about possessions, let me ask you this question: What do we possess in Christ? This is just some of what the Scriptures say we have in Jesus:
If you are in Christ…
you have complete forgiveness of sins
you have acceptance
you have friendship with Christ
you have redemption
you have adoption
you have life in His name
you have freedom from the law of sin and death
you have citizenship in heaven
you have fellowship with God
you have the righteousness of Christ
you have the light of God’s truth shone into your heart
you have peace with God you have a peace that surpasses all understanding
you have hope
you have joy in the spirit
you have unity with fellow believers
you have protection from the evil one
you have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit dwelling within
you have Him as a pledge guaranteeing your inheritance
you have the mind of Christ
you have the power to overcome sin
you have everything you need to live a godly life in Christ Jesus
you have a new nature
you have a new identity
you have a new owner
you have been bought with a price
you have been rescued from the domain of darkness you have been transferred to the kingdom of Christ
you have been healed
you have been reconciled to God
you have been justified
you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing,
and you have the right to approach the throne of God boldly, and when you do, you will find mercy and grace in time of need.
That’s ultimately because you have Jesus, and there’s nothing better this world can offer us than Him!
I hope the knowledge of what you have in Christ
brings you true joy this Christmas season!