Turkey Time is fast approaching. While we would typically devote an In Focus during the Thanksgiving season to reminding one another of the value of this season to practicing gratitude for family, friends, our nation, and especially our Savior, that’s not quite the direction we want to take.

Perhaps we’d like to discuss the excess of eating that comes with Thanksgiving, maybe we’d slap a picture of the ever-delightful Turducken as an example of this excess, but not this year.
Let’s talk about the real reason we get excited for Thanksgiving… Black Friday. Let’s face it, we really love stuff: new stuff, shiny stuff, expensive stuff, something Apple, all sorts of stuff.

You can just feel the gratitude in the air.

You can just feel the gratitude in the air.

However, if we take a minute to stop and think about it, Black Friday is a mind boggling concept.

As Pastor Marty said on Sunday, How can we devote an entire day to giving thanks and then follow it up with one of the biggest days of shopping all year?

We all know why we do it, because we don’t think we could ever have enough! Whether motivated by want, greed, or need, we try to accumulate all the time. The chief irony in this season is that Black Friday follows a day of thanks, and precedes the Christmas Advent, a season historically devoted to quiet introspection of the coming joy in the birth of Christ.

If you are also familiar with the Christmas nativity, you’ll also realize that there was NOTHING materialistic about Jesus’ birth. It is a story that God saw was so important, that he sent his angels as messengers to outcast shepherds, poor parents, and woman unable to have a child with this good news.

That Good News was first told to the poor, the barren, and the outcast; and that news told of a coming hope that would transcend earthly things.

This Black Friday season, however, brought us consumers a little surprise if you’ve looked in the right places.

For any fellow nature-philes like myself, you may have noticed that the popular outdoor outfitter REI has decided to Opt-Outside of Black Friday. This year they are closing their doors, and paying their employees to take the day off, with the encouragement that they spend the day doing something outdoorsy and wonderful.

Reading this I had two simultaneous thoughts: #1 there’s a reason REI is listed as one of the top companies to work for, and #2 what a wonderful practice to adopt!

Let’s be honest, I know a lot of you like to take the day to annihilate a good chunk of your Christmas shopping, I’m not asking that you absolutely give Black Friday and Christmas season (as Americans know it) up, rather you consider opting out, whether that means waking up at normal hours, or forgoing the madness completely. Perhaps it means setting some time aside for a prayer of gratitude, or kicking off your Christmas season on Black Friday with a reading of the Nativity in Matthew or Luke.

Whatever you do, I do ask that you opt out of the season of want, need, or greed. Remember that this season is bigger than us all, and concerns things that save us from the material cares of this life.

Happy Thanksgiving, and a very merry Advent,
-Joseph Gregory