“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
It’s a curious thing…Black Friday, that is. Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is commonly known as the biggest shopping day, or the day that begins the holiday shopping, or the best bargain shopping day. It’s curious to me because it’s the day after the day of thanks. The one day of the year that pretty much every person in the United States celebrates in some fashion. Some people focus on the Pilgrims and Indians, while some shun the whole politically incorrect and historically inaccurate day with a focus on family and friends. But all who are able, celebrate with food. Bountiful harvests of food are shared with those we love, those we tolerate because we must, and strangers we may never see again. Food is prepared for those in our homes, and those without homes. We give thanks for all we have been given, and give to those who have little, without expecting anything in return.
We fill our bellies to the point of being physically ill, rest, and then snack on the meal all over again. We stuff ourselves and fall into a stupor with our loved ones alongside us on the sofa, or we settle in alone to watch old movies and regret the fact that we are solo on a holiday meant to bring people together. Hopefully, we are all thankful for our blessings at some point in the day while retailers anticipate their “blessings” of the day after Thanksgiving.
The “black” in this Friday references the idea that sales will be so good for retailers that they will begin the holiday season “in the black” or positive in the books, rather than “in the red” and negative in their sales. Black Friday has migrated to Thanksgiving Eve, and now there’s talk that the entire week of Thanksgiving will eventually be advertised as the beginning of the holiday shopping season…Black Week maybe?
Commercialism aside, because I don’t even want to get started on that rant, we are thankful one day and then we must go out and buy “stuff” because…well, why? We’ve exhausted our thankfulness? We have shared all our blessings and need to buy more…to share? We cleaned the house and cooked for guests on Wednesday, socialized on Thursday and have nothing else to do on Friday of the long weekend? I honestly don’t get it.
I went shopping on Black Friday once in my life. I was new in the neighborhood and a woman said she would share her babysitter with me so I could go shopping with her. I only had to bring my youngest, still a nursing infant. I saw it as a free morning without kids! I didn’t have a lot of Christmas shopping to do – well, in truth I didn’t have much money to spend – but I thought it might help me connect with another mom and get some Christmas shopping done without all the kids in tow. It wasn’t anything like I thought it would be, and when I got home after shopping for a total of 2 hours, beginning at 5 am, I promised that I would never again participate in the cannibalism of Black Friday.
I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but the idea that we praise our Father on Thursday for our many blessings and rush out the door before the dishes are done to get some deals on gifts is a bit ludicrous to me. I hear people say that they can’t get up 15 minutes early to read the Bible and pray, but they can get up in the middle of the night to rush to the store for some bargains? Maybe you’re thinking that it’s being a good steward of those blessings God has given you? Maybe…some might call that rationalizing. But okay, I’ll give you that one.
By now some have stopped reading, some are red in the face with indignation, and some are nodding their heads in agreement. You might be wondering what is the point of this reflection?
If this gives you just a moment’s hesitation, a pause before you catapult into the fray and frenzy of the shopping season…then it’s a win. Have you planned your Christmas shopping to honor the Lord? Are you randomly grabbing any item with a sale tag just to be done with your list? Have you considered the person you’re shopping for, as someone who might be blessed tremendously by your thoughtful consideration of their individuality? This may sound overly “spiritual” but do you pray about the gifts you’re giving? Do you have a budget and stick to it? Or will you experience a shopping hangover on Saturday? Is there something you can “do” or “be” for someone that would bless them more than a physical gift?
Some of the most thoughtful gifts are those that cost us more than money. Take the effort to create something, or give an afternoon of your time and attention. When my children were young we didn’t have much to spend on Christmas gifts. We made gifts and thought up creative ways to “give” of ourselves to others. We produced a lot of certificates for chores and activities, homemade pictures and trinkets, a Christmas Story production, a special song. It’s amazing what brainstorming with children can produce! Not only do you have the gift of creative thinking, but you have the memories of creating together.
Instead of spending Black Friday combing the mall, fighting over random gift items, and battling for parking places, spend it snuggled with family or alone with Jesus. Pray about each person on your list, and over a cup of hot tea or a plate of leftovers, brainstorm ideas. Flex those creative brain cells and take the time to invest in those you love with thankfulness and praise to the God who gave His all for you.
Heavenly Father, you alone are worthy to be praised. You hold in Your hand the whole universe, and each individual human being. Help us to see the world, and each other, through your eyes. Give us love to share and patience with others as we enter this holiday season. Give us the strength and focus to keep our eyes on You, not on the “stuff” that fills our every waking moment. Fill us with the proper perspective and enough grace to share that perspective with those around us. In Christ’s Name, Amen.