Dec 2, 2012: You’re Inadequate – Buy More Stuff!

Posted on : Nov 29th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

A few weeks ago Jerod and I attended a three day seminar on “Preaching in the Visual Age.”  It was spectacularly wonderful.  It was for contemporary pastors and churches like ours who have been combining visual and spoken word as a means of embodying the gospel story for 21st century Christians.

We live in a visual age, and believe it or not, it is getting more visual, not less.  Remember old fashioned email?  It’s been long surpassed by texting and tweeting.  Even good old “Facebook” is now used more by grandparents than those in their 20’s.  The new medium being developed today that will make texting and tweeting obsolete (and that Facebook is desperately trying to incorporate into its “product!”) is video.  The new technology is even beyond YouTube.  It is a merger of “video and tweeting.”

If you’re still not convinced of the cultural change that has happened – the New Renaissance of thought and communication – the next best proof of living in a visual age is advertising.  Ads are what make our capitalistic economy work.

At our conference, one of the conference speakers – who is now a pretty famous young preacher – shared his experience as a senior account executive at a major advertising firm.  He asked us, “What is advertising?”  After many thoughtful replies from us preacher-types, he said, “You’re totally wrong.”  “Advertising” he said, “is the art of making you want to buy something you don’t want or have a need for.”  He then said, “Were that not difficult enough, in today’s marketplace advertisers have to do that with one picture or in a 15 second video clip.”

He then began to unpack the “art form” – and it is an art form! – of advertising.  Advertising is messaging.    You have to be able to tell a story in one picture.  You have to tell a story in 15 seconds or less.  And that story has to be so compelling – so moving that you are transformed by it and can’t wait to go out and buy the product associated with it.

Sound crazy?  It’s not.  It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that has experienced exponential growth since the 1950’s.  Has it been successful?  Has it “engaged you?”

Just look at how successful it’s been!  In the 1950’s the “typical” American family had one (1) car.  Yup, one car.  In that typical family, Dad drove that car to work and Mom stayed home – without a car – caring for the kids.  A “typical” kitchen included the following appliances:  a refrigerator, a stove, a toaster and maybe an electric griddle or waffle maker.  No dishwasher, no microwave, no electric can openers, no garbage disposer, on trash compactors, no exhaust fans.

A wardrobe consisted of one or two “good” suits for men or one or two “nice” dresses for women.  White collar businessmen had 5 or 6 white shirts, if they (the women!) were lucky.  Women washed and ironed those shirts.  Kids had one or two sets of “nice clothes,” a couple outfits to wear to school, and a few sets of play clothes.  Men and women usually had one pair of nice “dress” shoes and one pair of “everyday” shoes.  [John Berger just keeled over in a dead faint!]  Women wore “house dresses” which were like inexpensive smocks.  When women were cooking or baking in the kitchen they almost always wore an apron.  An apron not only afforded women “pockets,” they extended the “cleanliness” of her housedress.  And yes, women did laundry constantly – only most middle class homes had only a washer – no dryer!

In the 1950’s most homes did not have any TV, and if they did, they had one black and white TV with 3-5 channels.  Each home had at best one land line telephone.  Not one phone in every room or even one phone per person.  One phone in the entire house!

Now, look at your home today.  How many appliances do you have in the kitchen?  How many cars do you have?  How many clothes do you have in your closet?  How many pairs of shoes do you have?  How many phones do you have and how often to you upgrade them?  How many TV’s do you have – U-verse connected or cable wired?  How many computers, notebooks, or tablets do you have?  How many times a week do you iron?  If you answered, “What is an iron????” you’ve proved my point.

The Messaging of marketing has worked beyond our wildest belief!

As I was preparing for our Advent worship services, I read these ancient, yet beautiful texts, and I was deeply moved by the God-messaging in them.  The “messengers” sure aren’t HD TV spots or Smartphones – they’re quite different.  They’re angels and shepherds and wise men or Magi (3 Kings), they’re stars in the sky, voices from “on high” and totally unexpected poor folk, the “invisible persons” of the first century.  And yet, they tell the story – they reveal God’s message to us.  The God-message they communicate is quite different than the marketing message we hear today.  So whose message are we hearing?

This Advent and Christmas we’ll look and listen for the Message God brings to us.  We begin with the wisdom I saw on a bumper sticker in the WeHo TJ’s (Trader Joe’s) parking lot last Christmas:  “You’re Inadequate – Buy More Stuff!”




~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Isaiah 9: 2-7

Isaiah tells of the coming of the Anointed One who brings peace and justice.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;

Those who dwelt in a land of deep shadows, on them has light shined.

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as victors rejoice when they divide the spoil.

For the yoke of Israel’s burden, and the staff for its shoulder, the rod of its oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born, to us an heir is given;

and the government will be upon the shoulder

of that one whose name will be called

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Parent, Prince of Peace.”

Of the increase of that government and of peace there will be no end,

upon the throne of David, and over David’s kingdom,

to establish it, and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the God of hosts will do this.


Luke 2: 8-20

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.  And an angel of God appeared to them, and the glory of God shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Jesus, the Christ!  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth

peace among those with whom God is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which God has made known to us.”  And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

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