Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Don’t let Friday get Black.
With apologies to retailers and economists, I need to confess that I have never been a Black Friday fan. You have to admit the irony of following up our official national day of gratitude with our unofficial national day of commercialism and coveting, right? Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, given the fact that we celebrate Thanksgiving by eating massive amounts of food. If we express our gratitude with gluttony, why shouldn’t we spend the next day indulging in retail therapy?
Still, I’ve been frustrated by the ways that Black Friday has encroached upon Thanksgiving Thursday over the years. It was bad enough when the thickest non-Sunday newspaper of the year was the Thanksgiving Day edition filled with several pounds of door busters, stocking-stuffers, and midnight specials. Now, Black Friday begins on Thursday! I find it sad that we can no longer devote a whole day to Thanksgiving, nor apparently, can we confine Black Friday to one twenty-four hour period.
And we all know how it will go. Someone will be trampled to death or serious injury as people race into a discount store somewhere in America. People’s mothers and grandmothers will become thugs and fight each other over sale items. Millions of indebted people will smile over their receipts, celebrating what they have “saved” and paying much less attention to what they spent.
According to a recent Gallup poll, the average consumer plans to spend about $770 on Christmas gifts this year, up a few dollars from last year. At the same time, a Barna Research study indicates that 34% of Christians have reduced their giving to their church this year, and 11% have stopped giving at all. In their book Passing the Plate, authors Christian Smith, Michael Emerson, and Patricia Snell report that more than one-fourth of all American Protestants give nothing to their church over the course of a year.
Somewhere we got the message wrong. We think that we best honor Jesus by spending lots of money buying gifts for the people we love. We think that we best celebrate his birth by creating more consumer debt and by gathering more treasures that moth and rust can corrupt. We forget that Jesus had another kind of generosity in mind . . .
Here’s the sad irony. In the midst of the spending frenzy that is Christmas, good Christian people like you and me will get terribly upset when a store employee says “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” God forbid that someone should use the abbreviation Xmas, whether or not they intend the X to be the letter chi, the first letter of the Greek word for Christ.
We will quickly raise protests like, “keep Christ in Christmas,” or “put Christ back in Christmas!”
It begins with us and our attitudes. Will this be Christmas as usual, with Black Friday and bills? Or will you and I do our part to keep Christ in Christmas?
This year at First United Methodist Church, we will observe the season of Advent by using Mike Slaughter’s Christmas Is Not Your Birthday as a study and worship resource. Check out the book. Join us in worship.
I hope you enjoyed a meaningful, memorable Thanksgiving Day today. I hope you have a great Friday, black or otherwise. Keep Christ in it, ok?