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This past week, I have undertaken various shopping expeditions, while hunting for birthday and Christmas presents. I bought what I could online and, after traipsing what seemed like kilometres around shops, have now decided there is much to be said for purchasing something with the click of a button, despite those delivery costs! Yes, it was fun—to some degree. Yet throughout this process, I also found myself feeling slightly overwhelmed—even a little shocked.

So many options. So much choice. So many people. So much noise!

These feelings set in early when I visited two similar stores with an astonishing array of exotically-named perfumes and spray mists, crammed together on shelves reaching from floor to ceiling. I mean—how does one choose? Then in several other stores, I saw whole walls filled with board games of every description. Some were variations of the same game, while others seemed mere modern versions of old board games we played years ago, all now packaged expensively, of course. When I was a child, we used pencil and paper to play many of these—no big, fancy boxes for us!

No doubt suddenly being back in large shopping centres after our long COVID lockdown added to my sense of feeling overwhelmed. Yet even shopping online at times, I found the choice of products available equally overwhelming. There, I could flip from one site to another, comparing this item and that with ease. On one, it was cheaper. On another, it was dearer, but delivery was included in the price. On another, there was a bigger range. On yet another, the item looked better quality. After hours of hunting, I was utterly confused as to which was the best buy and where I had seen it!

Through all this, I have concluded that our son-in-law, who grew up in a different culture, made a very wise observation recently. Our daughter wanted to buy him a bicycle for his birthday, so asked him what sort he preferred. Did he want a road bike? Would a mountain bike be better? Perhaps an e-bike would be good. Or even a folding bike, for his trips to the city.

‘Just a plain, normal bike,’ he told her in the end, exasperated. ‘You people here have far too much choice!’

When I was in my teens, I remember being impacted by William Wordsworth’s poem ‘The World is Too Much with Us’, especially its opening lines:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

All that ‘getting and spending’ must have felt overwhelming for me even then. Somehow, I remember sensing we were made for much more than this. But in later years, a few little words the Apostle Paul wrote impacted me even more:

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 NLT

Yes, those many things I have been super-busy buying are so temporary, aren’t they? How much more important to be rich in the things of God!

May I remember that this Christmas—and always.

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