I have noticed that the Great Migration has shifted; it is no longer the migration from desert to fruitful land, but rather from checkout line to Hyundai Tucson. There once was a day when masses of people, hundreds of thousands, fled from Egypt; there was a decades-long period when Englishmen came and planted their Startuppe boots into the rich dirt that flanks our eastern shoreline, breathing in the salty air as they took in the Bay. There were nomads who followed herds of wild beasts in a seasonal pursuit of dinner, and there have always been the carefree wanderers, from the hippies to the gypsies. But now, the image of the rough and tumble man has been slain by the tender consumer whose most daring move is to cut off a helpless merger on the interstate. Wandering around an outdoor mall in Northwest Oregon, I can’t help but notice that consumers really buy clothes in order to cover up their wool and tie a rubber sole to their hooves. We have evolved into the very thing we once hunted in our days of rugged victory and glory; we are, to the businesses who seek to devour us, only bleating sheep.
No longer do we migrate because of oppression or famine; we migrate because the nice woman behind the counter says she’s sorry, but the store is closing. Alright, we huff to our husbands or wives, time to hand over 200 paper hours of our lives to pay for our daughter’s eleventh round of school clothes. A young child has been crying in some part of the store for thirty minutes; a group of even younger children have been chasing each other through racks of clothes for at least ten. A thought becomes too much effort to form, like a balloon in a cactus forest that never tells you not to buy the pink sweater. The desperation to leave the store mounts and, to keep from erupting, you gather all your maybe’s and I’ll-think-about-it’s and head for the register
The Migration begins.
Cash register to car, car to front door, to cash register, to car… When is the last time our feet took us anywhere?
With the coming of this Holiday season, a stirring thought came to me as I drew up my early Christmas shopping list. It is a thought evoked not so much by reindeer and tinsel, but by capitalist shrines—or, as they are deceptively named in America, Malls.
Here’s a riddle: Do Christians worship Jesus at Christmas time? My answer is no; rather, very rarely. The line between participating in our culture and pushing God out of our lives has blended into a line no more definitive than that which separates purple and pink in a sunset. We are called to separate ourselves from the world of materialism and lusts, but within that world rest the comforts of American dreams that for years have been engrained into our lives. The message that the spirit of Christmas must be purchased is among the most prominent: a tree, stockings, decorations, presents and eggnog are what brought about the birth of Christ. Anybody who bypasses the hot cocoa and forgoes the new brand-name line of winter sweaters has no respect for the baby Jesus, and that is the way it works. Materialism stuffs the American with lies the way meaningless toys are stuffed into stockings. Year after year, Santa returns to remind us that he is the Clause, the king of our salvation, the light of the world who will save us from a toy-less December. I will neither say that Santa Clause nor the idea of him is evil; rather that the secular American Christmas, oxymoron that it is, does not have a stitch to do with the celebration of Christ’s birth. But come now, is that really news?
Shopping cart to car, car to next cash register, and so the migration regenerates. This year, for Christmas, I’ll switch my migratory route to the heart of Christ; maybe it will get me further than that new pair of cords would’ve.