Advent Project: The Darkness of Black Friday

Each year, I blog through the Advent Season – a time of waiting, expecting, and longing in the midst of exile. This year’s Advent Project is my way of intentionally seeking truth in this time and motivating myself to reflect. Let’s reflect together about what it means for God to be with us, and how badly we need it. Another Black Friday has come and gone. This day in our consumer calendar never ceases to enrage me, and plant me firmly upon my soapbox. I never know quite how to express the utter shamefulness of the way people devolve so shortly after Thanksgiving, a time of thankfulness and remembering the “important things”. And to think that Black Friday was all started in the name of Christmas shopping. Shall we count the layers of irony? – that on the day after Thanksgiving, (the holiday on which we give thanks for the things we already have,) and in anticipation for Christmas, (the holiday on which we celebrate the God who dwelt among us to bring peace,) we fight and claw and trample and kill each other to save money on things we don’t need.

In some sense, we are all enraged by this. But year after year, we don’t change. Here is a helpful summary of the chaos and violence of this year:  http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2013/11/black_friday_2013_fights_shootings_walmart_target.html

black friday

This is also a rare year, in which the first Sunday of Advent immediately follows Black Friday. And not just Black Friday, but the first Sunday sits neatly in between what has become a weekend of shopping – Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. In the middle of this darkness, we begin the season of Advent.

Rather fitting, I suppose.

See, Advent is not yet Christmas. Advent is when we wait for Christmas, but not exactly in warm-fuzzy kinds of ways. Think of the song “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, which speaks of God being with us in the midst of our mourning and exile. This is the part of our story the Church attempts to reenact during this season. For more on the darkness of Advent, see my post from last year called “Resurrecting Christmas”.

The goal, then, for the Church during the Advent season is not to countdown to Christmas, but to enter into the darkness of our lives and the darkness of the world and to make room for salvation. Christ comes into the darkness as the light of the world, as John 1 says. But we can’t see the brightness of the light unless we realize how dark our situation is.

I don’t mean to say at all that we need to get depressed or go on guilt trips. I will always be the first to object to any theology that uses guilt or scare tactics to motivate people to Christ. But it doesn’t take long to open our eyes and to see the ways in which our world is dark, and the deep ways that we ourselves are dark. We all have skeletons in our closets, doubts and fears, tragedies and secrets. But while last year I focused on personal darkness, my conviction that salvation is global, corporate, and for all of creation, this year I want to spend more time on the darkness of the world around us, and how Christ and Christmas enter that.

For me, Black Friday is a clear example of the darkness of the world. It shows so starkly how we can forget what’s important, misuse religion, lie to ourselves, hurt our neighbor, become enslaved to greed, be hypocritical, and allow darkness to spread into our Holy-days.

So for those of us who are enraged by Black Friday, terrified at what we’re capable of, and morally estranged by the war on Thanksgiving, let us remember this: we are all broken, and we all live in darkness. Instead of pretending that we can turn our back on such madness or stand above it on our moral high ground, let us stare it in the face and see our reflection in it.

And most of all, let us see it as a reminder of the darkness into which we desperately need Christ to enter.

America, greed, self-interest, and consumer… that mourn in lonely exile here, until the son of God appear.

Rejoice.

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