The term “Black Friday” always reminds me of the Depeche Mode album, Black Celebration (but with less new wave flair) or the Black Plague. This has become an annual, morbid, spectacle as we watch shoppers stampede, fight and generally clog up the works at our favorite big box retailers to the tune of $475 billion this year.

As followers of Christ immersed in this culture of consumption, what are we to do? Yes, yes, “Jesus is the reason for the season” and we must certainly “Put ‘Christ’ back into Christmas” but fighting the temptation to go bust down some doors to get that half-priced plasma television is an uphill battle all the way. These days, every other television ad spends considerable effort making it seem like a perfectly reasonable thing to get into line at 3am to shop or that upgrading to that 52″ plasma screen will infuse your life with more meaning.

Eugene Cho and David Park have raised some really provocative thoughts recently about consumption and what it means to follow Christ. Maybe it’s the conspiracy-theorist in me, but I love the idea of subverting all of the marketing of these megacorporations and the greed in our hearts by turning some of this Christmas shopping season madness on its head.

Eugene writes about Buy Nothing Day and some of the reservations he has about this movement. In general, I think movements like Buy Nothing Day or that gross Feed The Pig commercial (where a man is about to buy a king-sized TV that he cannot afford until his grotesque half-man/half-pig companion smacks his hand) are good at raising awareness about our consumer habits. Greed, overconsumption, debt, keeping up with the neighbors — this is the air we breathe, and it can be extremely difficult to see life from another perspective.

However, it is far too easy to feel a sense of superior righteousness or to participate in things like BND as a one-time only, special engagement. As followers of Christ, we are called to a lifestyle of good stewardship and of genuine concern for others. To paraphrase Bonhoeffer, when Christ calls us to follow Him, He bids us to come and die — and the struggle to deny our impulse for the latest and greatest gadgets and stuff does require a certain kind of death.

The Advent Conspiracy invites us to restore “the scandal of Christmas by worshiping Jesus through compassion, not consumption.” [h/t: David Park]. Like any movement, I suppose the AC runs the risk of becoming faddish or trendy — but I think it is worth that risk. I love that this movement isn’t about not giving gifts or being cheap (“Um, I gave you two rolls of toilet paper out of the multi-pack because I wanted to be, like, a good steward. Right.”) but, rather, about giving better gifts — our time, our creativity, our hearts. Read through AC’s list of relational gift ideas and see if you don’t come across something that would really touch the heart of someone you love this Christmas.

May God change our hearts so that we enjoy giving and may He open our eyes to see the opportunities we have every day to love and serve.  Prepare the way of the Lord!