- ‘95% of Black Friday prices aren’t the cheapest of the year’.
(Which? Magazine, December 2019, page 5).
- ‘Shoppers - Shocked & Saved: Some Jesus’ followers across the Diocese of Bristol decide to freely give away their possessions to anyone who wants them. Black Friday sale queues are impacted! Shoppers ask “why would people do that?”
(Anon. Magazine, December 2019, page 5).
- ‘Everything I love is on the table’.
Reflections on Black Friday
Today is Black Friday – that moment in the year when shops and websites offer huge savings as they attempt to tempt customers into spending their money. For many it is the start of the Christmas shopping period, as they hunt out the best buys to give to their loved ones as presents.
Revd Lee Barnes is vicar of St Stephens Church, which lies in the heart of Bristol’s main shopping district, as well as Holy Trinity Church, Hotwells. Here he offers some thoughts that may aid prayerful reflection.
Lee said: “I would not describe them as pure truth but there may be truth within them. I offer them for our on-going journey with Jesus through the shopping aisles, online sale deals, commercial pathways of this world.”
I know a couple whose experience of money/shopping is heavily influenced and shaped by what they learnt from their parents during childhood.
One set of parents would never use Hire Purchase (HP), but would patiently save their money to acquire the particular item they needed.
The other set of parents, whose language of love was giving gifts (nothing wrong with that, right?), would purchase a huge number of wanted gifts in the season of Advent and spend the following January arguing, almost to the point of separation, that they had no money and their debt was too great. Confusing.
What is our motivation for buying? What is it that we really need?
We have just celebrated Christ as King (the non-commercial Kanye West version) and now we are asked to celebrate the Shop as King.
Now it is too easy, when reflecting on the narrative of commercialism, to conclude that it is so far from the kingdom of God, like an existence in an alternative universe.
But, this can, if we are not careful, push us to a dangerous place where a judgemental disposition can emerge.
We can also quickly share reflective quotes such as:
‘When a soul is distressed, it looks for comfort everywhere. The afflicted soul doesn’t want to be concerned about many things. It only wants peace and stillness.’ (St. John Chrysostom)
Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you.” (Hebrews 13.5)
We might speak about the conflict within each of us to desire those things ‘not of God’, and that acts of justice are needed to pro (publicly) & test (witness) the ethical, moral and spiritual motivations of our shopping industry.
How would you describe your view of commercialism and shopping as a Christian? Do you think your view would resonate with God’s view? Do you feel you should be protesting about Black Friday and, if so, why and, if not, why?
Yes, there will be gatherings and protests against the consequence of battery-farming-style-shopping-sales. Yes, some of us will shop on Black Friday and some of us will not. Some people need the company, shop, organisation they work for to make money and keep them in a job, some people really do need a sale to afford presents for their family, some people are addicted to shopping, some people do not reflect on the ethical purity of their purchase, some people do (thegoodshoppingguide.com).
There is an inescapable truth that shapes, protects and forms the Christian story – the grace of Jesus cannot be bought by us.
It is the same price all year round.
All I want is Jesus the Christ revealed in the everyday shopping of my life, whether online or on the street.
How will you and I invite others to know Jesus this Advent? In what ways will we love people better than we did this time last year?
Any Friday can be darkness without Christ.
There is challenge, and it can hurt a bit, for us and for the church – I think you know what it is.
Our churches are not to replace shopping arcades and centres with a quasi-alternative world in which to own the things of God makes some of us as more special than someone else. We do not shop the things of God.
God is not a barcode to be scanned or a God to be contact-less with; God is personal and relational and shows no favouritism.
Where may God want to prophetically challenge the culture of our churches or our own discipleship? What should we be careful to not forget this Advent?
I believe there is a better way.
Christians do not own the monopoly on righteous living but they certainly attempt to live in a way that tenderly cares for people, things and creation. Christians certainly appreciate, along with others, that choices made in their purchasing of items impact, for good and for bad, on people, things and creation.
The global inter-connectedness of our transactions and the complexities of our purchases are part of our discipleship.
Many people are asking, and searching, for a way to live that treads gently through this sacred world – I can think of no greater way offered than the way of Jesus Christ.
Many people are asking, and searching, for a life that is more than possessions and stuff and things – I can think of no greater life than the life offered in Jesus Christ.
I pray that Advent takes each of us to new places with God and develops new landscapes of faith, possibility and hope in God across our churches.