My generation, Generation X, is often considered the most forgotten and overlooked demographic in the country. Google the Millennials and the Baby Boomers and the material available from marketers and trend trackers will keep you up all night. Generation X, on the other hand, is rarely discussed, reported on, or considered by the big time planners, marketers, or decision makers.
This wasn't always the case, though. In the 1990s, Generation X was all the rage, making the covers of Time Magazine and Newsweek Magazine fairly regularly. We invented the internet as you know it. We developed the first websites and pioneered some of the most foundational digital and online companies still around. We were hanging out in Starbucks, looking for locally grown produce, and volunteering to help the most poor all over the world long before the likes of Portlandia or Humans of New York were ever conceived.
Who are these Generation X people? Different research groups vary quite a bit in how they define the age ranges, but I place Generation X between 35 and 55 years old, with Baby Boomers in the 55 and older age range. Many researchers see the Baby Boomers starting at about 50, and I tend to think that may be true for some. But if we're talking about tech savvy people, who've been using social media professionally since their college years, we really need to broaden the scale up to 55 years old, in my opinion. The Millennials, or Generation Y as they used to be called, would then include the 21-34 year olds.
It can seem a little bit perplexing that our society essentially jumped over Generation X. We have lived through and experienced the transition of a culture once dominated by the Baby Boomer generation to one where Millennials are now seen as the most dominant group. As the "in-between" generation, we should be uniquely situated at this point in time to correct course for some of our nation's most pressing issues.
However, we, as the people of the in-between generation, have lost our voices. As Jason Hayes of For The Church commented, the one defining characteristic among Generation Xers is they are tired. Tired of what? Hayes thinks that they are just tired of the journey of life. Or perhaps, they are tired of the treadmill of accomplishments. I think many Xers may be tired because they feel they have been sold a bill of goods in works righteousness. I've blogged about the problem before here (This is 'What's Going On').
The illusive "American Dream" that says if you work hard, you'll be successful and reach your goals. In the church, it's the issue of the prosperity gospel and name-it-claim-it ideology. Boomers and Traditionalists may have lived in a reality where the American Dream was still alive and well, but now Xers perceive that dream as having been delayed or stolen from them.
The stock market crash of 2008 immediately comes to mind. We lost as much as 40% of our 401k retirement plans, while the banks and corporate titans remained relatively immune to these losses. Dwindling Social Security and Medicaid accounts that are misused and misallocated give Xers little reassurance, despite the fact that most Xers have already paid into those accounts for 30 years or so.
Another interesting and relevant metaphor comes from a particular example of succession planning in the late night television programming industry.
Years ago, NBC brought Conan O'Brien into their late night line up, following Jay Leno on the schedule. Conan was the intelligent, avant-guard comedic talent that was selected from a lengthy study to be the heir of the Late Night franchise when Leno retired. After a long tenure, waiting in the wings and being groomed in the process, the day finally came when Leno announced his retirement from late night television. Leno would move to primetime endeavor and hand the reigns over to Conan, and bring Jimmy Fallon on board to take Conan's old spot. But this only lasted for a few weeks, when Leno decided that his retirement plans weren't quite working out for him, so instead of bumping Conan back into his later slot, the network decided to part ways with Conan.
The fans and audiences of late night programming collectively watched and voiced disapproval of how the network and Leno handled the transition and their interactions with Conan. Just like we all have passively participated and watched as society has passed over of GenX, only those who have been marginalized can change course. Lately, it seems Conan has found his voice in a different context, on his cable program. Similarly, I feel that we, have a unique opportunity to find our voices, make a comeback -- and more importantly -- make a difference.
Since none of this discussion of retirement or American Dream-crushing really explains or represents the issue or real heart of the matter, we should think hard about what might be holding us back that we can influence.
If we in the middle generation are tired, God cares and His Word speaks to that. If we are disappointed and discouraged, God cares and His Word speaks to that as well. If our hopes and plans and dreams didn't turn out as we had hope they had, God cares and His Word speaks to that.
In fact, in this season of Advent, we should look to Christ, in whom we shall find true peace. No matter what we think we need or want, Christ knows perfectly what we truly need, if we will trust in Him and His righteousness.
If we repent of the worldliness and self-sufficiency that clings to us like a body of death and makes us so very tired in this life, we will find new life in Christ. We repent not only by admitting sin and wrong priorities, but we must turn our gaze from distractions and falsehood, so that we can intently put our focus and trust on the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
Now for some Late Night Re-Programming (Praying this hymn by Phillip Brooks):
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!