It's supposed to be the season that we think of peace on earth, goodwill to man, and all of the warm fuzzies that come with focusing on Jesus. We give gifts to people (many of whom we haven't spoken but three words to all year) which "proves" that we are quite charitable and others-centered.
Um... have you been to a Wal-Mart on the day after Thanksgiving?
I have. In fact, I even pondered doing the 5am thing to just be a part of the madness that is "Black Friday." Yet my common sense got a hold of me and I ended up sleeping in to a more decent hour - 7am (okay, we were in Chicago and got on to a different time zone - the boys woke up thinking it was 8am).
In any event, my wife and I took our two boys out for some McDonald's breakfast and a short drive around the neighborhood my mom lives in. Close by was a Wal-Mart, and we like this store a lot. I know it's become popular these days to bash the store, but we like it, shop at Wal-Marts often, and like the deals we can score on everything from clothing to cheese. Granted, Super Wal-Marts are but a stone's throw away from becoming their own nation - they already have food, housewares, wise elders (who greet you at the door), and a whole lot of cheap guns. Nonetheless, though, you can't beat the price of diapers (and isn't that what really matters at the end of the day?).
(Which, as a side note, have you ever noticed that those who oppose Wal-Mart never seem to say anything about the casinos that are popping up all over the place and the misfortune they bring to towns?)
By now you may have already heard about the incident that happened on the day after Thanksgiving at a Wal-Mart in Grand Rapids, Michigan (about 35 minutes from where I live). A bunch of people lined up at the door to score some great deals and ended up trampling over each other once the doors were opened. One woman in her thirties was sent to the hospital, as was a 13-year old gal who tried to help a pregnant lady up. I guess the story is that people literally walked all over her back.
There is a lawsuit against this Wal-Mart now for not providing the proper security to stop this.
The same day at a Wal-Mart in Orlando, Florida a man allegedly cut in line to buy a lap top. Apparently someone snapped their fingers, said "OH, NO YOU DIDN'T!" and went after him. He was wrestled to the ground in the middle of the electronics department.
Are we as “others-centered” as we think this time of year? We think we are because we get up super early to get a deal on Beef Jerky for Uncle Fred. Yet if we have to run over others in order to elbow our way their first, maybe we're missing something.
There's this thing a lot of us do in the church called "Advent." The word means "coming" or "arrival" and it helps focus the entire season we're currently in as a celebration of Jesus Christ coming to earth. This applies not only to his First coming (His birth), but also the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Coming (our rebirth).
So Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, that He came and WILL come - this is a thing in which we now participate and anticipate.
Lighting a candle each Sunday is one part of this tradition, symbolizing our focus and participation with God:
- A candle raises upward, just as our focus needs to be on things above and not on the things of this earth.
- A candle burns, just as we need to let parts of us burn away - our sin and rebellious will.
- A candle shines in the darkness, just as Jesus offers us hope... however dim things can get, we anticipate a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation.
What's going on in your heart this Christmas season? Are you watching the calendar for the next great deal? Or is each day a chance to prepare your heart that much more for the King who became like us so that we could become like Him?
- "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10)