Last week Starbucks announced the start of its holiday season. Their slogan this year is “Create wonder, share joy.” They boast of “joy in a cup.” Humm….reallyl? I know they have a palate of new tastes for the season. And I really like Starbucks. But caffeinated wonder and joy?
It reminded me of that book by Tom Standage, The History of the World in Six Glasses. It is about the six vital fluids that have shaped human history. Each of these was at one time was the defining drink of the age, but they all, in some way, came up short.
Standage says, first, there was the age of beer which characterized the earliest civilizations of the Ancient Near East. With the shift from nomadic life to farming came the use of cereal grains. It helped purify water, but the Greeks and Romans found it too–barbaric. So it gave way to a second age—the age of wine. Wine, made of the fermented juice of grapes, was the lifeblood of Mediterranean civilization. But it was expensive and too bulky for travel. This gave way to a third age, the age of distilled spirits. Distillation, according to Standage, helped make possible the age of exploration as Westerners sought new trade routes to the east. Distallation made spirits compact for travel. Some thought this drink was a panacea for all diseases. But eventually its addictiveness and intoxicating side effects made it a social problem all over the West. It “fogged people’s brains” and “drowned reason.”
So what came next? The fourth vital fluid is coffee, brought to the West via Arabia. Coffee, the great soberer, was the drink of the Age of Reason. It was safer than alcohol. It “cheered the spirit without making one mad.” It was said to be the ideal drink for scientists, business men and philosophers. Only problem—it was too expensive for many. So the age of coffee gave way to the age of tea. Tea, the fifth vital fluid, courtesy of China, conquered the western world in the 1800s. It lubricated the British Empire and the Industrial Revolution. Cheaper than coffee, tea breaks were adopted in factories to fuel productivity of the masses. But alas, it was too bland and gave way to the coming carbonated age.
The sixth defining drink was Coca Cola, the drink of the 20th century. It went from a medicinal drink to America’s national drink that service men carried all over the world. Now it is the world’s most widely known product. Meanwhile back home it is being banned from some schools due to its high sugar content.
So here we are in the 21st century and what will be our defining drink? Standage does not say. Jolt? Something from Starbucks? Whatever it is, there’s no doubt we live in a thirsty world, and keep looking for something to quench our deep thirst.
So as I was waiting for my drink at that Starbucks, (a simple Awake Tea) I hear a barista talking to himself as he is fixing it, evidently thinking about the new ad campaign. And, I kid you not, he says out loud, “I am always looking for joy, but joy never seems to find me!”
It was a poignant moment on the short-comings of all these drinks and the thinness of this year’s ad campaign as it tries to cash in on Christmas. Even Starbucks comes up short.
It also reminded me of something Jesus said. “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4.13-15. So Jesus said “if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7.37)
Speaking to the deep thirst of humans in every era of history, he offers real wonder and real joy, in a cup!
How appropriate then that the Bible ends with an extraordinary invitation to thirsty people and thirsty baristas everywhere, to come and drink from Christ.
The last verses of the Bible read: “The Spirit (that is, the Holy Spirit) and the bride (that is, the Church through the ages) say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22.17) .