Here in the U.S., yesterday was ‘Black Friday,’ the ubiquitous start of the Christmas shopping season. Having set aside Thursday as a national holiday for giving thanks, we are promptly seduced by retailers to recall all the things we don’t yet have (for which, therefore, we can’t yet be thankful). Stores opened early ~ some boasted this year of staying open even on Thanksgiving Day itself ~ and there were enough circulars advertising ‘early bird specials’ and ‘doorbusters’ (of limited quantity, of course) to supply a year’s worth of hamster cage lining.
I myself abstained from the Black Friday frenzy from the safety of my own home. Not that I don’t like bargains ~ because I do ~ but the whole human stampede thing is a bit much for an introvert like me. Besides which, I rather resent how much money is spent trying to convince me to be discontented with the life I’ve been given. As the pastor said on Thursday, greed and gratitude don’t mix very well.
The kids wanted to know why it’s called ‘Black Friday,’ so as any high quality research team would do, we googled it. Some say the term was originated by police in Philadelphia to describe the crowded and unruly onslaught of shoppers the day after Thanksgiving. Others say it refers to the start of what is typically the most profitable season for retailers (i.e., hoping to end the year with a profit, or ‘in the black’).
The whole discussion didn’t make a lot of intuitive sense to the kids, so I opted to confuse things all the more by reminding them of another oddly-named holiday, namely ‘Good Friday.’
“Now wouldn’t it make more sense to call THAT day ‘Black Friday’?” I asked them. “After all, in those terrible hours when Jesus was suffering on the cross, it hardly would have seemed *good,* at least not to him or to his followers. Now, when we look backwards in time, we can see that Good was going to win, but in that moment, it must have seemed that evil was having the last word.”
“Uh, when can we put up the Christmas tree?” Young Man wanted to know. Apparently my theological ramblings were not exactly engaging my audience in a helpful way.
The contrast of those Two Fridays, though, won’t leave my mind. Jesus, like us, had spent the day before in a festival of thanksgiving. And that night, he had blessed his final meal with a prayer of gratitude.
“And when he had given thanks, he broke the bread…”
He knew the pain that awaited him in just a few hours. And still…thankfulness.
Our culture wants to convince us that on the other side of thankfulness is even more consumption. The Savior, on the other hand, quietly demonstrates that on the other side of gratitude is sacrificial love.
A worthy nugget to ponder in the season upon us.