O Come O Come Emmanuel!
We had an awesome Hanging Of The Greens service at RCC this morning. Here is my meditation (much shorter than a regular sermon – the Hanging of the Greens took up most of the service!).
I came across an article online yesterday titled, Black Friday 2013: Walmart Becomes #Brawlmart. Here’s what it said:
It’s that time of year again: Black Friday. Millions of people gather at various retail stores to push and shove their way to a $98 TV set or a 50%-off iPad.
As usual, things got ugly in some places. So ugly that hashtags #Walmartfights and #Brawlmart had thousands of tags overnight.
One video went viral showing an unidentified Walmart full of shoppers swarming a discount item and fighting, shouting, and shoving to get out of the crowd. Police even swoop in to take down a shopper who got physical.
Another #Brawlmart tagged item showed a video of a Walmart in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. As the “This was a nice try at crowd control … but then,” one twitter user said, [linking to] a video showing a stampede-like crowd storming the doors.
#Brawlmart also spread to Fort Worth, Texas, where this video shows shoppers getting frighteningly rough reportedly over a DVD player, a Garmin GPS, and a variety of other items.
And in Rialto, Calif., a fight broke out over line-cutting in the parking lot of a Walmart before the store opened.
Videos of each of these incidents were embedded into the article.
Guys, I think we can do better than this.
This is not a rant against Black Friday shopping – truth be told, I was actually out on Friday buying a few last-minute items for this morning’s worship service (and hey – the fabric used to make the paraments were 40% off!). This is, however, a reflection on how extreme our society has taken the “holiday” season.
I have been thinking a lot about the Advent and Christmas seasons this year; about the commercialization of a Christmas holiday that most of us hold so sacred in our faith; about the growing divide between the sacred and secular celebrations of Christmas.
It would be easy for me to stand up here and tell you how important it is to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, to remember the reason for the season and to put the Christ back in Christmas. I could only choose Advent hymns for us to sing over the next four weeks. I could preach total resistance of the commercialization of the holiday season and complete embracing of the holiness of the Christmas season.
But that would do none of us any good.
Because around 11:00 I will say the benediction and we will all go our separate ways. We will be re-integrated back into the real world, a world where the Christmas season is very much secular and very much commercialized. So the Advent that we are experiencing inside the walls of the church will seem so irrelevant.
But here’s the thing: I do not think we have to choose between one or the other. I just think we have to find a balance that works for us.
This Advent season I charge you all to be intentional. Don’t just celebrate the season, experience the season. Find a way to merge the Christmas that your faith is calling you to rejoice in with the Christmas that is being celebrated all around you. Let’s face it, there is a real magic in brightly-lit lawns, in Pinterest-inspired centerpieces, in all-day cookie-baking extravaganzas, in gift-giving and gift-receiving, in 24-hour a day Christmas music and in the hustle and bustle of holiday parties and concerts.
But the magic goes away when these things become a task, when these things become a stress that weighs us down and when these things become a catalyst for a Black Friday stampede at Walmart.
One of the reasons that we have a Hanging of the Greens service is so that we can be intentional; so that we can remember why we adorn the sanctuary with decorations; so that decorating remains a spiritual and holy experience and does not simply become another obligatory task on our never-ending to-do list.
This season, be intentional. When you are out shopping, don’t do so out of obligation; rather think fondly of the person that you are shopping for and be grateful that you are in a position to give. When you are cooking, rejoice that you have food to prepare. When you are listening to Christmas music, sing along as if you surrounded by a chorus of people. When you are watching television, mute the sound during the holiday sale commercials and read a prayer, a devotional or a passage of scripture. When you are preparing your house for guests, give thanks to the Lord for a roof over your head. And when you are cleaning up after everyone has left, pause and be grateful for the friends and family in your life that descended upon your house and made that mess.
Separation of church and state has scared many of us into thinking that we cannot celebrate Christmas as a Christian holiday in our day-to-day lives. But we can. We can be intentional and celebrate the coming of Emmanuel – God with us – in our lives.
Our sanctuary has been prepared and we are ready! Ready to wait; ready to celebrate the Advent season and ready for Jesus to descend upon our lives.
Come, Emmanuel, come! We are ready.
Thanks be to God!