Black Friday has been latched onto by retailers. Already they're suggesting that it is a pre-Christmas shopping tradition. Although this is the case in the America it was only imported here last year. Both years the headlines have been similar – Shoppers fight for the best bargains. I don't know whether the bargains have been especially generous or worth fighting over. But this seems a tradition we could well do without.
This was quickly followed by Cyber Monday – the busiest online shopping day of the year – when eye-watering amounts of money were spent. And now the news programmes are reporting that Tesco, Britain's largest retailer, has issued another profit warning leading to the company's share value crashing by 10%.
All of this news can make Christians feel a little uneasy. Christmas shouldn't be like this. It should be a time of peace and generosity, but this feels like greed and acquisitiveness run riot.
Of course, we have no right to expect the rest of the world to feel the same as us about Christmas. In our post-Christian society it is not the celebration of Christ's birth so much as a midwinter celebration of family and children and is accompanied by blatant and often excessive consumption. But we surely have something to say about the problems that unfettered consumerism can cause.
We understand that it is essential in our modern world that we have robust economies, a strong retail sector. It may be that supermarkets like Tesco have had their day, that they will be replaced by alternative ways of selling, in the same way that they have replaced the greengrocers, bakers, fishmongers and grocers (and much more besides) that once lined the high streets in our cities and town. Perhaps their failure (which is only relative) is caused not because of anything they're doing but because we, the consumers, resent much of the worst of modern capitalism which they represent – the huge profits, the exploitative purchasing and marketing, the tax avoidance, the destruction of our high streets. If this is the case Christians can have much to offer as we rebuild Western capitalism and our Christmas message will be at the heart of what we say.
At Christmas God sent his Son to be born as a human baby. God himself, in Jesus, becomes vulnerable and dependent. In this way he represents the vast majority of the human race, who have no power, no voice, no wealth. This was an act of ultimate humility, generosity and self-sacrifice. These are values which our modern culture dismisses and takes advantage of. But they are values which we need to rediscover to become truly prosperous. For our prosperity lies not solely in economic growth and ever-increasing profits but in justice, equality, fairness and respect. Jesus, by his birth, life, death and resurrection, has shown us that such values can transform a world in ways that we can never achieve through wealth creation. We need to discover where true wealth lies.