Here’s the least encouraging website I’ve seen lately: www.blackfridaydeathcount.com. It claims that Black Friday has been responsible for nine deaths and 102 injuries in the last ten years.
According to the website, a shopper was killed last Friday in a dispute over a shopping spot at a Walmart in Reno, Nevada. Another person died in a deadly shooting at a New Jersey mall. A woman was hurt during a stampede in a South African mall. Another was injured after shots were fired outside a mall in Tennessee.
Though you survived Black Friday physically, you may have been injured financially. Last Friday, Americans spent $9.2 billion in stores and another $3.08 billion online. We spent another $16 billion during Small Business Saturday. Today is Cyber Monday, which will cost employers $450 million in lost productivity as employees shop when they should be working.
Here’s a sign of our times: according to Fortune, around ten million more Americans shopped online than in stores over the Black Friday weekend. Among the most popular Christmas items for children are the Sky Viper Nano Drone, the Air Wars Battle Drones, the Anki Cozmo Robot, and a smartwatch designed for kids. As Bob Dylan noted, “the times they are a-changin.’”
But you and I are alive right now for a reason. God has a perfect plan for where we live, but also for when we live. It is by his providence that we weren’t alive a century ago or a century from now (if the Lord tarries).
Why do you suppose Jesus wanted you to be alive in times like these?
The answer to the question is as individual as the person who asks it. But know this: you have all you need to serve Jesus effectively today. Your spiritual gifts, God-given abilities, divinely-arranged education, and providential life experiences have all converged into this moment in human history. There is no one else like you. There is a Kingdom assignment no one else can fulfill as you can.
While our lives and calling are unique to us, our message is not. We are the custodians of a gospel that has been trusted and shared billions of times over two millennia. We are privileged to praise the same Child the shepherds worshiped, to give to the same Child the Wise Men bowed before, to preach the same message Peter and Paul preached. The same risen Christ who met John on Patmos stands ready to meet us right now.
You don’t have to understand why God would use you for God to use you. You need only say with Isaiah, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
And you don’t have to understand the message of grace to share it with grace. Anne Lamott is right: “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
That’s what happened to those who met Jesus at the first Christmas. And it’s what will happen to those who meet Jesus today. Including those who meet him in you.