This month’s Vestry devotion is submitted by Vestry member Griffin Bridgers.
During Christmas and the Advent season, it is easy to get swept up into our culture’s way of viewing this holiday. It is no secret that we live in a consumer-based economy, and our human nature drives us to want as much “stuff” as we can possibly get our hands on. It is also no secret that getting “stuff” often does not lead us to the happiness we expected. Both of these outcomes are contrary to the life God has called us to lead, yet we keep doing them.
When we dig deep into our consumerism and materialism, we often find a lack of faith, both in God and in ourselves. We lack faith that God will be enough, so we search for the magic pill of joy and happiness. We also lack faith that we can do hard work, so we search for the magic pill of motivation and discipline.
While this may be an oversimplification of what drives us when writing our Christmas wish list, it also exposes what may be an even simpler theme: Consumption.
We all know that consumption is contrary to the life God has called us to lead. Yet, that does not stop us from asking God for “stuff.” As noted in chapter 4, verse 3 of the letter of James,
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
So, in a world where we are bombarded with the message that we must consume, and given our human nature to consume, what wrong “motive” could James be referring to in his warning? Could it be that we erroneously equate happiness with pleasure? Could it be that this misguided pursuit of pleasure serves only to enhance our ego, and not our soul?
If we look to what we are celebrating this season (the birth of Jesus), we find a theme of creation. It is no coincidence that creation is the opposite of consumption. Given this reality, perhaps the right “motive” that James referred to is a desire to create. And, if we were to dig deeper, I think we would find that the act of creation is the magic pill we have been seeking all along.
Creation is often at the core of many of our most cherished Christmas traditions. Unfortunately, in our busy lifestyle, we often view this creation as tiring work, when in fact it can be life-giving. I was reminded of this recently, when I finally got around to putting up the Christmas lights on our house after procrastinating for two weeks. Once I got started, I found myself spending an entire afternoon outside completely engrossed in my task. What I had imagined as hard work had instead become a fun and exhilarating task. Now, every time I leave the house with my two girls, I get to hear their expressions of joy seeing our lights.
If we were to simply tune out the Christmastime messages of consumerism which bombard us, we would find many opportunities to create. Putting up a Christmas tree, decorating, baking, making gingerbread houses, making ornaments, and caroling are all creative activities which also carry fruits of the Holy Spirit. We get to experience fellowship, joy, and true relationship with God when we partner with Him and glorify Him in our creative endeavors.
So, during this Christmas season, I would encourage you to add a new spiritual discipline of simply creating something every day. While it takes some work to break your habits and dedicate time to creative endeavors, you will quickly find each creative activity speaking to your soul. This is not an accident, as God has called us to create and not consume.