Christmas is a time of the year when the advertising world does its best to bombard us from every angle. Whether it’s the latest gadget that is a must-have, or the hassle-free feast that will be delivered to your door, or the luxury holiday that you so richly deserve, it’s all aimed at luring us to buy what we didn’t know we needed until they advertised it. It’s what might be (perhaps cynically) called the discontentment industry. Advertisers and marketers know full well that you won’t change your spending habits and buy their product unless they can make you dissatisfied with what you already have in terms of possessions, lifestyle, who you are, what you look like, etc, etc. Of course that’s not the only part of their equation, but it is a significant factor in how it works.
Paul, as he writes to the Christians at Philippi, says “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Phil 4:11). At the time he was chained up in gaol, not knowing the outcome of his case. Execution was a real possibility, and did eventually become his lot. What he says indicates that contentment doesn’t come to us naturally. It’s something we have to learn. In my experience I have to keep learning it. Going back to the cross frequently and being filled again with awe and wonder and thankfulness at the abundant generosity that God has shown to us in the death of Jesus in our place is a great antidote to the dissatisfaction with our lot in life that so easily fills our horizon. The assurance that we have as believers that the future is secure, that we have been put right with God, helps us to be more content with whatever situation God has put us in, and to live thankfully through it.
Of course there are some things that we ought never be content with – like the sin in our lives, or our selfishness and a whole host of other things that we know only too well. With them we need a holy discontent that drives us to be more like our Saviour and to live in a way that honours him and what he has done for us.
As we rev up for Christmas, let’s take stock of our contendedness level and worship again the One who “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).