As I sat listening to the homily this morning at Christmas Liturgy the image of the Nativity scene in Bethlehem played out in my mind. I couldn't help but contrast this image of a quiet peace amongst the shepherd's fields with the consumer mentality that so dominates our existence today.
Jesus said " No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and Mammon." Matthew 6:24
(Mammon is a term that was used to describe riches, avarice, and worldly gain in Biblical literature. It was personified as a false god in the New Testament. The term is often used to refer to excessive materialism or greed as a negative influence.)
Mammon is what our society is all about. It's no accident that we are often referred to collectively as "consumers". I always like to say that we in America are intent on proving Jesus wrong. We think we can serve two masters. Well, we will at least try. Mammon has held a special place in our market driven economy, but I believe we are entering the end days of this consumer oriented existence.Just the thought of being a consumer is disgusting --it makes me think of a parasite. I forget the exact number, but I think something like 70% of our economy is based on the consumer. In simple terms we consume and no longer produce. Unfortunately for the most part we've been consuming things we don't make or need, with money we don't have. We think we have credit. All it really is though is debt and debt has made our world go round.
What a great gig. Some poor foreigner works his butt off for a pittance while we sit back and consume and consume. Here's the real deal : You can't borrow your way to prosperity. We are finding out that a bill does come due and does need to be paid. No additional TARP plans or stimulus packages are going to change the situation. Retail sales are down big-time, car sales are in the toilet, stock prices and real-estate values have fallen off a cliff. We're not as rich as we thought we were and the ramifications are going to be monumental.
The next several Christmas's might see a premium on such things as family, fellowship, friends and simple food. In the end, maybe something good will come out of all of this. We've been serving Mammon way too long.
Father closed the Christmas homily with a quote for Isaac the Syrian on the Incarnation. I'll have to do more reading of Isaac. My favorite along these lines is from Athanasius "God became man so that man might become a god."
If we ponder that line the only conclusion is that the Incarnation was one awesome Christmas gift and awesome might be a vast understatement.