You Go, Amazon

Amazon used to be a gargantuan river with anaconda and piranhas and scary dark forests. Not anymore! Thanks to a record setting five days of holiday sales, Amazon (the online store we all love to shop) is trumpeting new numbers to prove its global dominance.

CBS News reported on Tuesday: "Amazon said Cyber Monday and Black Friday were the biggest shopping days in its history. The online retail giant didn't disclose sales figures, but it said customers ordered more than 180 million items during the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, adding that the latter was its biggest single shopping day ever." And by the way, Amazon wasn't the only retail winner this year. "Cyber Monday likely hit $7.9 billion in sales across all retailers, making it the biggest online shopping day yet, according to an estimate from Adobe. That represents a roughly 20 percent increase from last year. Online sales for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday likely reached $3.7 billion and $6.2 billion, respectively, Adobe said" ( .

Did you catch that—$9.9 billion of online shopping on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, PLUS another $7.9 billion of online sales for Cyber Monday—which rounds off to a cool $17.8 billion spent online to open the Christmas shopping season. Numbers, by the way, which do not include the billions spent at retail stores over these same five days—numbers that prove what James A. K. Smith describes as "a culture whose civic religion prizes consumption as the height of human flourishing" (Desiring the Kingdom 76).

You go, Amazon and friends!

Maybe the word to be emphasizing right now is the "go" of "You go!" Because charitable gifts in this season of outsized spending on gifts hardly measure up to equivalency. Don't get me wrong—having spent my life working for an institution that is totally (completely, exclusively) dependent on charitable giving—I am a sold-out believer in the spiritual boost God gives the charitable, cheerful givers who keep the church going and growing!

But "go" goes beyond "give." "Go" is what I saw happening a couple Sundays ago when I dropped in on our Harbor of Hope church's pre-Thanksgiving dinner for the inner city of Benton Harbor. There I happened to bump into a police officer and his family who used to worship here at Pioneer but have joined Harbor of Hope in its city mission. I also chatted with a flight attendant, who with her family left Pioneer to join Harbor of Hope to become more involved in a hands-on ministry of compassion and care. That's the "go" I'm thinking about—the "go" of Jesus "into all the world" which includes our depressed inner city 12 miles up the road from this campus.

Don't get me wrong—I'm all for charitable giving (thank you for your generosity to the Boss of the institution I work for)—but I'm realizing that charitable going goes much deeper than a tithe envelope or an offering plate. Going means changing places, abandoning observer status, and plunging into hands-on compassion and caring in a very needy demographic slice of America.

If you'd like to check out this idea of charitable going, drop in on our very attractive Harbor of Hope campus (769 Pipestone St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022) some Sabbath soon, or check out their website ( , or email Pastor Taurus Montgomery who with his family of five leads the congregation and community (

"Charitable going"—two words that summarize the story line of Christmas. Because just like Jesus, charitable goers go to where action and need intersect—usually near the intersection of a city near you.

You go!