Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Friday

I stayed at home.  I watched TV.  I ran around the house with the girls. I watched a movie.  I ate turkey. I avoided Black Friday like the Black Plague. If you ventured out into all the commercial chaos - more power to you (come on - Kohl's opened at 4:00 a.m.)!  I've begin to notice something over the last ten years or so - as soon as Halloween is over the malls and department stores plunge head first into Christmas and pretty much ignore Thanksgiving. Oh they may run a few commercials for 20 pound turkeys and pumpkin pie but I see something else competing against pro football and glutton induced napping -  it's another full contact sport - Black Friday - and the crowd goes wild!!! Newspapers are larger due to the advertisements and coupons - you sit down to watch Clark Griswold go Christmas light crazy on Christmas Vacation and you are BOMBARDED by Target commercials every five minutes.  As my father-in-law would say, "this drives me whacko!"  What is it?  Black Friday wants only one thing - all the stinking money in your account - and we fall for it every year don't we?  

Now, don't get me wrong - Christmas is awesome - the tradition of gift giving to symbolize the Gift of Jesus Christ to this hell bent world is glorious indeed - I never ever get tired of it.  I'm tired of the commercialization. In fact I think I hate it. Why?  Because it's taken priority in peoples lives.  It's a known fact - research it yourself - more people go into debt during Christmas season - more debt means more stress, more fighting, more alcohol consumption, more depression, more anger, more divorce, more suicide - all in the name of 'gift giving and gift getting.'  What?  How could gifts get such a bum wrap? (pun intended) Gifts are supposed to be happy-love filled-joyous-things aren't they?  Yep - you'd think - but everything falls apart when we miss the point and over extend ourselves.  I don't have a problem with giving and getting but I do have a problem with going overboard - and that's what's happened to America and many American Christians - it's not that we forget about Jesus we just bury Him under all the commercial clutter.  This year, I want to step back and consider what I can do to keep Christ first and commemorate His birthday without losing my mind...and a ton of cash.
So here goes:
1.  Sell what you don't need right now. Craigslist or eBay - check it out.  It's simple to do.

2.  Use this cash for gifts - you can look at it like recycled funds.

3.  Keep it simple.  Give each child a few gifts instead of forty gifts each. How many times has some parent cried out in exasperation over discarded toys all over the floor - you hear them scream 3 blocks away, "they don't appreciate what they've got!"  How can they when they have 36 different games, action figures, dolls, and remote controlled cats? It's sensory overload.  Now if you run on to some awesome deals and you're financially able to purchase 20, 30 , or 100 different items (yikes!) - who says you have to give it all to them on Christmas morning?  Why not give some of the gifts that day and then wait and give some of them a month or two down the road?  Freak your family out some Saturday morning in March. Scream - wake up the whole house - beat pots and pans together as they all stumble into the living room and discover the gifts circled around a potted plant or something!  Explain your psychotic weirdness by telling them that this is what Jesus does - when we least expect it and when we least deserve it He blesses us with grace, mercy, and all out goodness (minus the pots and pans). I know, I know, silly stuff but I guarantee you they will remember that year and that lesson for the rest of their lives!  Now back to business - some items could even be stored away until next year - you might be saying, "wow now that's discipline" - I just think it's making good sense out of our cents. I think it's better to do it this way then live in regret when the credit card bill shows up.

4.  Participate in trustworthy charitable organizations.  
Samaritans Purse, The Salvation Army, Toys For Tots, etc.  Many churches have a toy drive every year - check into it.  Give 10, 15, or 20% of what you're going to spend on your family. It's called sharing. Last time I checked it was a Biblical principle.
5.  Keep it simple.  It's worth repeating twice.  It needs to be repeated twice. We need to read it twice. This is why.  Today, December 1, 2008, I was horrified when I read how a man lost his life last Friday. Did he get shot in the head by a mugger? No.  Did he get stabbed by an assailant trying to get his Playstation 3?  No.  Did he get ran over by a truck in a shopping center parking lot?  Close. He got ran over by a mob of people at a Wal Mart in New York.  Let me say it again.  A man was trampled to death by people trying to get into Wal Mart on Black Friday to get a good deal. Lord Jesus help us (The damaged doors can be seen in the pic above). 
Ellie Berhun went shopping there the day after the tragedy.  She said, "Some man lost his life because a VCR was on sale?  Please. It's just to sad for words." It's more than sad Ms. Ellie, it's shameful.  How do you think his family is going to feel this Christmas day?  
The man that died that morning was 34 year old Jdimytai Damour - a part time employee for Wal Mart.  It is even reported that other workers were knocked to the ground as they tried to rescue Damour.  Some customers simply stepped over him and kept shopping even after the store announced it was closing because of the death.  What in the world were those people thinking? Here is what they were thinking about: A 50 inch Samsung plasma HDTV for $798.  A Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28. The Incredible Hulk DVD for $9.  Hmmmm, a movie on sale that depicts an out of control 'green' giant that obliterates and destroys everything in it's path - fitting after what happened in New York last Friday.  I pray that Wal Mart does the right thing and gives this mans family some financial security until they can get their lives back in order. No, this tragedy is not Wal Mart's fault but there should've been an appropriate plan of action when the crowd began to swell and surge.  Knowing Wal Mart, they probably do have a plan to avoid these kinds of accidents but something went terribly wrong on their parking lot.

I believe that story sums it all up and sadly illustrates how out of control this nation is when it comes to materialism.  Christmas. What has it become?  The capitalization of Christ's birthday.  I don't believe Jesus is very happy about it.  I know I'm not. Therefore, I think I'll stick to my 5 simple steps and stay away from Black Friday.  Sadly that name is more fitting now then it ever has been.

Merry Christmas.

(My apologies - what an eternal post - I'll keep them shorter in the future.  1.27.10)

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