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‘Read all about it, it’s Black Friday!’
So I discovered while scouring the Metro on the tube to work. Glitzy advertisements tried to sell me everything from superfast broadband and iPads to flatscreen TVs and seaside apartments.
I’d love to say I’m above this kind of crass consumerism and opportunistic marketing. Alas, already this week I’ve spent £50 on a massage gun and rocking calf stretcher.
Although that’s still £188 less than the average British person will shell out this week, totalling some £500 million more than this time last year.
As I wander not far from work, I’m struck by the juxtaposition of pitch-black ads in shop-fronts and shiny bright stars and angels swinging at the intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street. What should I make of this as a follower of Jesus?
At one level, I can celebrate businesses offering great deals and balancing the books, getting out of the red after a tough financial year. But the prophet in me wants to recall that the term ‘Black Friday’ was coined in 1950s Philadelphia, capturing the ugliness of greedy hoards buying big at the start of holiday shopping, trampling one another to get to the best deals.
All that glitters isn’t gold. The spectacle doesn’t satisfy, and these transfixing apples may actually be poisoned. For today’s shiny purchases are tomorrow’s landfill, further stressing our fragile ecosystem.
And as average debt rises, with many families choosing between heating or eating this Christmas, this consumer frenzy looks as careless as throwing coins into fruit machines. No surprise that the Metro also advertised pawnshops and Christmas appeals for the Salvation Army.
Perhaps, though, we can redeem this black day. Might we point our neighbours to the real splendour of the season which our shopping barely foreshadows?
Because in two days we celebrate Advent, a journey from darkness and unmet longings into the dawning of a new day. For the true light that illumines all people entered the world (John 1:9). And the weight of Christ’s glory satisfies our soul in a way even the best Black Friday deal can only dimly signpost.
So as you purchase this day, and appreciate the sparkling stars adorning our streets, take a moment to pray for fellow shoppers. May we all be consumed by the Advent to come and trace the bright lights up to their source in ‘the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Dr Dave Benson
Culture & Discipleship Director, LICC