“Black Friday” – The day after Thanksgiving. For some, Black Friday actually begins on Thanksgiving, sometime between the final whistle of the Cowboys game and the time you eat your first dinner-buns-with-turkey-scraps sandwich. It is a day when Americans attempt to recreate the running of the bulls, only indoors with more danger. All this, while the Best Buy store stereo blares, “…all I want for Christmassss is you…” Should’ve added, “…and that. And that. And that.”
“Love Actually Saturday” – The Saturday after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Christmas season + 1. This is a day when you vow to never look at another human being again after yesterday’s fiasco. Instead, you hole up for your now-annual tradition of Baileys, the couch, that ratty “Team Building Exercise ’99” sweatshirt, and the crooning of the immortal Billy Mack’s, “…I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes…” Or, alternatively, you watch 8-10 more hours of football. Substitute Baileys with Bud Light. Sweatshirt can stay the same.
“Swiffer Sunday” – The Sunday after Thanksgiving. Finally, you address that growing heap of dishes in the sink and get your significant other to help you put the dinner table back to its normal size. Your dog (thankfully) begins to act as your personal swiffer, having just worn off his own Tryptophan coma. You flip on the tube and “…What? How many #$%^ football games are there?! All I want to watch is…wait, who’s playing?…okay, that sounds like a good game…”
“Cyber Monday” – The Monday after Thanksgiving. This is the day where shoppers remind themselves that they live in the 21st century and there’s this thing called the Internet. A huge store with amazing goods all at a person’s fingertips without the noise, the lines, the people. Your commitment to Cyber Monday does not require camping in front of the store for days on end—it just requires your Visa. After some strict family detox, you begin to entertain the possibility of re-entering society, the first time that’s happened in about 4 days.
“Real Person Tuesday” – The Tuesday that inaugurates Christmas season for real. This is the day where people become human once again. This is the day when you throw away the remaining turkey in your fridge. This is the day that you don’t buy any presents. This is the day you warmly invite a friend to a cup of coffee and a walk around the greenbelt. No cell phones. No sales. Just you. And him. No asking about your travel plans or home decorating progress. Just you. And her. Talking about the things of the heart. A little by little, you begin to thaw. Real Person Tuesday is my little idea for you. You.
You know what I know: Black Friday is revolting, Christmas has been murdered by Walmart, and the Emperor is rebuilding the Death Star. You are reminded, once again, that Christmas hymns playing in your local malls and shops feels insanely sacrilegious. Even profane. You don’t give a flying ___ about the red cups at Starbucks, but you acutely register a disconnect between the specific joy of the Christian Christmas and the vague amusement of a holiday season where one has permission to drink too much and disregard commonly accepted fashion rules.
Folks, if we’re going to restore humanity to the country we love, let’s start by re-ordering the way we do Christmas. And to do that, it will behoove us to re-establish some simple truths:
- Christmas is NOT, and never has been, about family and friends. It’s not about getting together, reconnecting, or being with someone special. Christmas certainly isn’t about the shopping or the food, though in the case of the latter, it remains a decent perk. But didn’t you just say…?! Yes, I called for relationship time with a loved one…because this is what life together can be like. It still has nothing to do with Christmas.
- Christmas is about incarnation, not excarnation. The image of God became flesh and made his dwelling with us as an embodied human being, a little Jewish boy born of a woman into a frighteningly alien world so different from God’s original design. Our excarnational culture would have us believe that an image is so much more significant than the real, and thus, the culture has committed itself to the transformation of the Christmas event into a sign, an image, probably emblazoned with a sticker that reads, “30% off!”
“Christmas is NOT, and never has been, about family and friends.”
Turn your Tuesday into a walking proclamation of the Christmas event, a bold witness to the power of God’s grace made real in a world that often rejects reality. If Christmas remains grounded as the incarnational revealing of God to man, then…
…we most certainly can enjoy the neighbors and family that surround us, in awareness that family itself—even friendship—was a feature of Jesus’ humanity from his very first breath.
…we most certainly can enjoy the giving and receiving of gifts, albeit as a poor reflection of the gift-giving nature of God himself. As Christ reorients the Christian life, gift-shopping moves away from rote obligation (“I suppose I should get ____ something this year”) or friendship legitimization (“This will show them how much they mean to me”)…and becomes a reflection of grace. I give freely because I received freely.
… we most certainly can reject the American facsimile of Christmas, calling it out for what it is: excarnational, materialistic, and ultimately, shallow.
May your Tuesday be a day of grace, a day filled with authentic conversation about the stuff that matters with people that matter even more. May you be filled this week with assurance that God Incarnate continues to prove that the imago Dei became flesh and not the other way around. And may you have the strength to gently resist a culture that would seek to displace the stupendously impossible event of Jesus’ birth with the ‘good news’ of Cyber Monday deals.
© Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.