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From the Pews | Will Advent Change Our Selfish Hearts?

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We can’t help but be bombarded by the consumerism that veils our entrance into this Advent season of hope and waiting.

If there is ever a time in our church calendar where U.S. culture and the gospel message reside in tension, this is that season.

Christianity has long been plagued by prosperity gospel messaging from which the belief stems that if someone is on the right track or in God’s will, that person will be blessed.

That blessing isn’t an eschatological one, but a physical one. Prosperity preachers famously boast of high-dollar clothes, estates and vehicles.

Is this the message that God incarnate in the form of the Christ child brought to earth? No.

U.S. Christians have to wrestle during the season of Advent with the message of the humble beginnings of the Divine taking on flesh even as Amazon and Target toy catalogs flood their mailboxes.

U.S. Christians have to wrestle with Black Friday sales touting getting a head start on Christmas shopping as corporate companies try to meet year-end quotas.

U.S. Christians have to wrestle with the pull and the drive to buy more and more and more during this season that whispers wait and hope and wait and hope.

This is certainly not easy work. This is the work of putting faith into practice. This is the work of living differently than our culture and our society are teaching us to live.

This is the work of coming face to face with our own privilege, our own role in the economic injustices that plague our society and our own perpetuation of those injustices.

The self-storage industry is a $38 billion a year industry. There are over 50,000 self-storage facilities and over 2.3 billion square feet that we as Americans rent to store the stuff that won’t fit in our homes.

This is enough room to house the entire homeless population in our country many times over.

This Advent, we follow the gospel of Matthew’s telling of the birth of Jesus Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, the Matthean Jesus teaches, “Where your money is there your heart is also.”

This was true then and this is true now. Our hearts are not with those who are suffering, those who are homeless and those who are in need. Our hearts are with the consumerism and capitalism and buying more and more.

Maybe, just maybe, the Divine incarnate in the form of the Christ Child will change the way we spend our money and our time and in the process change our hearts.

Merianna Harrelson

Merianna Harrelson is pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, South Carolina, editor-in-chief of Harrelson Press Publishing, and an EthicsDaily.com / Baptist Center for Ethics board member.