So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19).


“Competitive shopping turned violent at a Los Angeles–area Walmart when a woman fired pepper spray to keep other shoppers at bay. Police say 20 people suffered minor injuries from the spray and subsequent “rapid crowd movement.” Witnesses say they heard screams coming from a crowd of shoppers rushing for discounted Xboxes and Wiis” (see note 1).

“A Black Friday shopper who collapsed while shopping at a Target store in West Virginia went almost unnoticed as customers continued to hunt for bargain deals.

“Walter Vance, the 61-year-old pharmacist, who reportedly suffered from a prior heart condition, later died in hospital, reports MSNBC.

“Witnesses say some shoppers ignored and even walked over the man’s body as they continued to shop, reports the New York Daily News

“Friends and co-workers saddened to learn of his death, expressed outrage over the way he was treated by shoppers” (see note 2).


Assaulting others for a game console? Stepping over a dying man? (At least some nurses shopping in Target assisted the man until paramedics arrived. Kudos to them for having a moral compass and being true to their oath as medical professionals.)

We hear these kinds of stories every year. And I’m sickened by them. How is hurting other people as you rush to get a deal a fit preparation to celebrate the birth of the One who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many? Answer: it’s not. People really don’t care about living like Jesus did, no matter how many Christmas carols they sing about “preparing him room.”

It’s because of the flawed or non-existent moral sense of shoppers and all of us in general that we need to pay more attention to the season of Advent. Not an easy calling. Nothing could more counter-cultural than to emphasize its focus on simplicity, humble repentance, and waiting (AKA deferred gratification) over excess, shameless self-promotion, and rushing into stores and toward Christmas Day itself.

Don’t expect much along those lines, though, from the dominant churches in this nation, namely, the evangelicals and fundamentalists. A radio host on a “Christian” radio station I tuned into while surfing the frequencies last Sunday gushed about how glad she was that we could now “legitimately” say “merry Christmas,” since it was after Thanksgiving. A Baptist church in a nearby town already has scheduled for tonight tours of live nativity scenes and a mock-up of the biblical Bethlehem. These kinds of Christians contribute to the culture’s fixation on rushing toward Christmas, instead of helping us to step back and ask questions about our consumption, our need to get and have, and our reluctance to repent.

But truth be told, the oldline/offline (Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal…) and Catholic churches don’t do much better, even though we recognize Advent and hear texts on its Sundays about judgment and longing and changing our ways. We are urged to make the crooked straight and the mountains low. Yet we either have so little influence on the culture or we have been so co-opted by it or the pressure is so great to conform that our voices go unheeded. The cacophony set up by all the ads and horrible Christmas Musak and kids clamoring for their favorite toys and electronics is so loud, so harsh, so utterly crushing that even the strong preaching of John the Baptist is drowned out, not to mention the warnings of Jesus or the singing of Mary.

I truly despair for our nation and for its churches. But maybe as in days gone by, a few will be able to reset their moral direction by sighting on the “bright morning star” (Revelation 22:6) and lead the way to renewal. That would be the most wonderful Christmas present of all.

© 2011 Tom Cheatham

Note 1

Note 2