Well, this morning is the 1st Sunday of Advent, which means that we have made it through Black Friday. For those of you in the congregation who are younger, and by that, I mean under 60, Black Friday is a fairly new event, and don’t confuse it with Good Friday. The names would make much more sense if they were reversed. The day after Thanksgiving has long been a big shopping day, and within recent years it’s taken on the name “Black Friday” because businesses hopefully make enough money to show a profit, which turns the red ink of their ledger to black – but if you’re under 60, you probably don’t understand ledgers, and red ink, and black ink, either. Just remember, it’s the day merchants are supposed to make enough money for their businesses to last another year.
But Black Friday really has taken on a life of its own, just within the last few years. In recent years a few nuts have camped outside stores to get in early and take advantage of limited bargains. But it reached a new height of insanity this year. They interviewed one guy who had set up camp at the door of a store on Wednesday – and he had his son with him. His wife was going to bring them Thanksgiving Dinner in line. This was the 3rd year he’d done this. Some stores put porta-potties outside for the people camping in line.
And then, this year, there was the woman with the pepper spray. She apparently couldn’t get through the crowd to get what she wanted, so she hosed down the crowd with pepper spray to clear herself a path. On the one hand, it’s all so bizarre that it’s kind of amusing, but on the other hand, it’s kind of sad and disgusting. To me, it seems to be the worst of consumerism, sort of gone mad. Sadly, quite a few people around the country were injured in the mob rushes, and a couple of people were killed.
NPR spent some time yesterday analyzing what Black Friday has become. A few sociologists blamed it on the economy. People are so broke that they have to behave like this. If you’re that broke, you shouldn’t be in line to get some monster TV, at any price. A few others claimed that it was generated by businesses who had just gone too far in creating a really dangerous situation. The deals were too good for people to resist. I didn’t hear any of the experts blame stupidity and greed. If you choose to eat your Thanksgiving Dinner in line at a big box store, three years in a row, to get some video gadget cheap, I think you have a problem.
From our Reading of Isaiah this morning:
“We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. “
“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. “Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity forever.”
I’ve always loved that passage. To me, it’s what Advent is all about. I love the imagery of God forming us with clay on the potter’s wheel. Every time I see someone using a potter’s wheel, I think of this passage. The potter uses his/her hands to form the clay. And in my head, I can see God using holy hands to form me, and you, and each of us – making us holy vessels to carry life, and love, and healing, and light into a dark and sometimes hurting world. I think every person is formed on the potter’s wheel with that mission.
Well, that all sounds good, but it didn’t work. The powers that drive the insanity of Black Friday still overpower us. So God tried something else. God created a special child on his potter’s wheel, who would walk this earth, and try to show us how to do it right. Human kind made a mess out of that – too.
But God still didn’t give up. And here’s where Advent comes in. God ordained that the spirit, the love, the hope, the caring, the passion of that special child, would revisit the world over, and over, and over – but this time, in OUR hearts – yours and mine. And it would come upon us at Christmas.
There’s a wonderful piece of music – “Love came down at Christmas.” The love of God will re-enter every one of our hearts this Christmas.
And now, we must get ready for it. And we don’t do it by pepper spraying a crowd that’s blocking our way to something we want. To me, the “pepper spray thing” represents the selfishness, and the greed, and the lack of respect, and the animal behavior that stands against everything that Advent and Christmas represent.
You and I have 4 weeks to get ourselves ready to again welcome Christ into our hearts and souls. We need to think about this. How are we going to do this? And this has nothing to do with Santa, and Jingle Bells, and all that stuff. This has to do with soul and spirit – our souls and our spirits – what drives us deep inside, where and how we touch “The Holy.”
We prepare for medical procedures. We prepare for school exams. We prepare for a new baby. We even prepare for death. But right now, we are called on to prepare for the Love of God to reenter our souls again, anew, afresh.
ANYTHING you can do to get yourself ready for this – do it! It’s important. It’s holy. It’s Advent. Amen.
Richard Bridgford, Rector
Church of the Epiphany, Norfolk, VA
Advent I, 2011