Dr. Doug Posey
There are few things that can stoke the levels of joy in a young child like Christmas morning can. Christmas is still months away, but most of us have fond, joyful memories of that morning to which you looked forward all year. It may have been a bike, or Barbie doll, or the guitar you requested, all shiny and new, that made a particular December 25th the best Christmas ever! The sense of joy was palpable, for a little while anyway.
Then, eventually it was on to the next thing. You outgrew the bike, or Barbie and never really learned to play that guitar. However, you still looked forward to Christmas and the jolt of joy that came with getting new things. But, was it really joy, or an unhealthy counterfeit concocted by our culture that we’re taught to buy into at a very early age?
That sense of joy being found externally, through material things, can be seen in such extremes as what happened several years ago at a Walmart, where 2,000 people eagerly awaited the Black Friday sale to begin at 5 a.m. It was the store at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York. They had been gathering for two days to take advantage of the “door buster” deals—large screen TVs, electronics, clothing and every imaginable bargain lay just beyond the sliding glass doors. At first, the 6’ 5”, 270 pound Walmart employee, Jdimytai Damour, was the only obstacle, besides the doors, between the shoppers and the objects of their desire.
Though formidable, Damour was no match for the surging crowd as they pressed against the glass. Several other workers joined in, attempting to stop the uncontrollable tide of humanity as the time to open drew near, but to no avail. The doors literally busted, the glass shattered, the stampede ensued. Jdimytai was fatally trampled. Nonetheless, the shoppers had gone about their business, frantically sprinting to gather their goods. Then, when told that the store would be cleared due to the death of an employee, some objected strongly. After all, they’d been waiting in line since the previous day! Many had to be involuntarily removed from the store.
What drove those people to act in such a callous way? Were they evil people? Probably not. The chances are that they were looking to make themselves and others happy; to attain a sense of joy, through the acquisition of more, newer, better stuff. Despite the fact that there is no evidence—in fact evidence to the contrary—that such stuff brings higher levels of joy, we’re convinced that pursuing it is still worth the cost.
The Walmart shoppers provide a window into the human soul, where there is a vacuum that humanity—especially in our materialistic, consumer culture—is desperately trying to fill. Joy will only be realized when it is filled as it was intended to be filled.
Here’s the problem, an internal vacuum cannot be fulfilled by the external. Stuff, material things, a bigger TV, a better computer, a faster boat, don’t fit the space in the heart Jesus longs to fill. He said, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). Internal, full joy, that’s the kind that satisfies. That’s the kind the angels heralded on that first Christmas when they declared to the shepherds,
‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2: 10 & 11).
There’s nothing wrong with appreciating the blessings of material things. Kids should enjoy and be thankful for their gifts on Christmas as they celebrate Jesus’ birth, or whenever they receive nice things. We all should. It’s a matter of perspective. Christmas and life in general is not about the stuff. It’s about the grace and mercy of God, Who provided His Son, the ultimate Gift, that we might know true joy, now and for eternity.
“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. —John 17:13