Last year I had the dreadful opportunity of participating in my first Black Friday shopping event. Normally, we head to Philadelphia at Thanksgiving to spend the weekend with my parents and family. While we are there, my wife and her best friend, would head out dark and early in pursuit of amazing deals on some of the much wanted gift items of that year. Last year, we went to Maryland to be with Amy’s family for the holiday. Amy did her Black Friday homework, made her list, made her plan, and prepared for the expedition. There was just one problem, no best friend. So because I refused to let her go by herself, I got my first look at the beast known as Black Friday.
After waking at some awful hour of the night, or morning, not really sure which, we arrived at our first store…WalMart. The first thing I noticed was the line of parked cars leading to the parking lot of the store, which sat back a little ways of the main road. I thought it was a little odd, but didn’t really connect the dots until I pulled into the actual parking lot. It was packed! Every spot, filled by an automobile. Cars lined the outer rim of the parking. Five state trooper cruisers policed the lot while another handful of officers stood by the entrance of the store. I could not believe my eyes.
We managed to find a place to park the mini-van and made our way inside. The store was crawling with people pushing and pulling shopping carts piled high with items ready for purchase. The lines at the registers reached to the middle of the store while other lines, filled with customers hoping to score the big ticket items clogged the isles as they waited for tickets that would guarantee a reward.
As we navigated the store, trying to locate the items Amy sought, I found myself amazed and then appalled by the sights. Are we as a people really that selfish? Are our craving for things so strong that we become gluttens of materials so we can boast the spoils of sales?
I had once admired my wife’s valiant efforts to find “great deals” on the items that my kids hoped to find under the tree Christmas morning. But after seeing the atrocity we call Black Friday, my pride turned to embarrassment and shame. We were just as selfish as the rest of America.
After the trauma had settled, I determined in my heart that I did not want to participate in such a despicable activity. Amy did not venture out this Black Friday in search of “deals” as in years past. And so far, we have worked hard to curb the wants vs. needs this Christmas.
This morning went out to complete our Christmas shopping. Much to my surprise, I felt that feeling begin to resurface. As we walked the isles of the stores I noticed that the longer we roamed, the more unguarded we became. We found ourselves straying from our list of items to purchase, distracted by items that strangely called out for us to add them to our cart. It didn’t take long before we were dropping “extra” toys, games, and fun items into our cart.
As a husband and a wife, AND as parents, we have tried really hard to place the focus of Christmas back at it’s rightful place; the nativity. We committed to morning and evening Advent devotions as a family, and have stuck to it. We spent more time talking about how we wanted this Christmas to be about experiences and memory-making and not so much about the things we want. We took turns praying for other families and friends that we know and love to remind us that we should be giving and compassionate and caring. I have been teaching that Christmas is more that trees, lights, and packages with the hopes of spurring other’s hearts to be moved to focus more on Jesus’ birth. And yet, here we are, strolling down a familiar path that leads to excess.
Thankfully, we realized what was beginning to happen, and some of the items that filled the cart were left at the register. When we arrived at home, we evaluated our treasures and found that we could do without a few of those wonderful treasure. So back they went.
Now that it’s all said and done, I wonder if we will ever fully rise above the cultural quest for stuff. It really is amazing how easily we can find ourselves lost in the throws of want vs. need. Money looses it’s value as dollar after dollar is exchanged for things that have no real value at all; that is except for the value that our selfishness places on what we want at the time.
I am sooo far from being perfect. But I Thank God, that He is sooo patient as I learn and relearn this lesson. But as Christmas quickly approaches, I want to know that Too Much Christmas means that I am enjoying my family and friends more than usual, instead of realizing that Too Much Christmas means I over spent, over bought, over gave, and over ate. I guess it’s a process that only time and God’s faithfulness and patience will help me learn what Christmas really look like.