“Are you excited about the new IKEA store?” asked the woman I was visiting. Sheepishly I confessed that I was and then added, “Even though there is nothing I need in my house from that store.” Her husband offered that he was looking forward to enjoying some meatballs, and we discussed the food possibilities in some detail.
It’s true that IKEA is opening a new store in Winnipeg. My commute from city home to country church takes me right past the new store and I’ve witnessed each stage of the big blue box arising from the ground. A few weeks ago, workers erected a huge sign that towers over the landscape. I yelped with laughter when I first saw it. The enormous blue and yellow logo appears to be large enough to be seen from outer space, way beyond what’s necessary for the generous sightlines of the flat prairie.
IKEA is an attention-grabbing business. At least some of us take notice and get excited, whether it’s for the mouthwatering meatballs or the stylish European home furnishings or some other reason. I visited their website (as research for this column) and began drooling even before I got to the food! Examining my own response, I see I’ve been (once again) seduced by the lure of materialism. With its glossy artful photos and cleverly marketed products, IKEA tugs at my soul’s yearnings for—what? I’m not even sure. Beauty? Home? Comfort? Satiation?
It seems silly to me even as I write these words. For I know I am blessed with a warmly attractive home, more than adequate food and finances, and a wonderful web of people-connection. The materialistic gods of our culture seem to possess the power to disrupt our contentment and leave us aching to scratch an itch we didn’t know that we had. Or that’s the power we give over to them.
This is a season to examine our appetites and assess how we are tending them. It’s the season of Advent with Christmas waiting in the shadows of anticipation and mystery. Or that’s how it unfolds in the Christian calendar, with a time of preparation and repentance to enable us better to receive and celebrate God’s incarnation as Jesus. In North America, this Christian season can easily be lost in the frenzy to purchase and consume. The gods of commerce and materialism seem to overshadow the One who came in a simple, humble way as a wee baby.
We have to resist the false gods, whether it’s a trendy furniture store or the latest technological gadget or an extra plate of meatballs. Our stuff doesn’t save us, and it doesn’t bring us real life. I think what’s real can be found in relationships. Getting our relationships straight—with God, with ourselves, with others (especially those closest to us), with the earth. “Less is more” might be a slogan to guide us. Less pursuit of false gods. Less shopping. Less consuming, frenetic activity. Less expectation of perfect children’s programs and perfect choir concerts.
More moments of stillness. More room for awe and wonder. More times on our knees gazing at a baby in an animal feed trough. More genuine joy. More respect for the earth, and careful, grateful tending of its resources. More giving to those who are truly hungry, cold and homeless. More awareness of the people we love—holding hands, laughing and crying, talking about the important things, maybe even making meatballs together—from scratch.
Melissa Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Winnipeg where she works as a pastor and counsellor. Her family ties include that of daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend.