Black Friday, Dark Night

I’m afraid I have to agree with the blogger who commented: “Black Friday—the most embarrassing day of the year for me as an American.” He then embedded in his blog someone’s video clip of shoppers in a real, live melee at Wal-Mart last Friday. Embarrassing? You be the judge ( But perhaps even more embarrassing is the latest sales report from retailers. With businesses opening on Thanksgiving night (kudos to the financial genius who came up with that novel suggestion), the weekend total for US retail sales was $59.1 billion, up 13% from the year before. Because of our massive national indebtedness of $16+ trillion, I realize that the figure you just read may seem paltry in comparison. But look at that number again: $59.1 billion. Do you know how much that is? Who does?! And yet in a nation where 47 million of us now are having to subsist on food stamps, that’s how much Americans spent on their family, their friends and themselves. In just one weekend. “God bless America” indeed! Somebody I overheard this week quipped, “We ought to be celebrating these numbers—after all, sales like these keep Americans working.” Oh really? Do you seriously suppose that American shopping binges are the boon to an economy that is hopelessly in debt. In fact, I wonder how much of this $59.1 billion was purchased by plastic, boosting the already bulging bankrolls of credit card corporations. Keeping Americans employed? Get serious. Keeping Americans in debt may be the most transparent analysis. So how does the follower of Christ relate to obscene spending like the weekend past, and to the impoverished Americans who live all around us in this county? “Listen—I pay my taxes—there are entitlement programs to care for the needy—and besides, whose business is it how much money I decide to spent on Christmas!” Sounds like a third millennial Ebenezer Scrooge to me: “Are there not poor houses for people like these? Then send them there—I will not give one penny more.” Aren’t you glad God is no Scrooge? After all, what is the meaning of this season’s underlying (but awfully hard to hear above the din of the shoppers) narrative? Ever ponder Emily E. S. Elliott’s words in that carol we love to sing? Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown When Thou camest to earth for me; But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room For Thy holy nativity. Not just “a king” and “a crown”—the story of Christmas is the midnight-splitting pronouncement that The King and The Crown of a billion billion galaxies stripped Himself of throne and glory, and descended to this “dark, dirty” race to save us. And I remind you, we were hardly “on sale”—it was not a good buy—which is why no other buyer stepped forward. Which is also why Christmas and Calvary are forever now inseparable. For in the light that shines from the Face in the cradle, from the Face on the cross, we behold in undimmed splendor “the glory of self-sacrificing love” (Desire of Ages 19). Self-sacrificing love. Black Friday healed by Good Friday. It’s how your heart and mind can yet be healed this Christmas, this very day, right now. As the carol ends, “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee.”