Chances are that your Black Friday shopping trip didn't devolve into anything like the chair throwing melée at the Dallas Texas Town East Mall (right). As far as I know, no one died this year. Maybe the media is doing its typical job of illustrating a common misconception - unruly crowds rush to get Christmas sales -- and thereby actually giving it life. But there's something a bit dispiriting about the idea that our big box stores -- Walmart, Sears, KMart and the rest -- can't wait until the drumsticks are baggied and the liquor capped before opening their doors to the mania of Christmas shoppers. The Puritans may have been prescient in their dislike for Christmas, the holiday that brings out our collective drunken reveler and greed head more than it does our sober pietist. Meanwhile, our friends on the right of the political spectrum are wheeling out their perennial pro-Christmas poses, wailing about our society's supposed war on Christmas, while the left bewails the loss of the real meaning of Christmas. All the while, the real battle lines are being drawn in Aisle 9, where a few battered boxes of flat screen TVs are being skirmished over like scraps of meat at a dog fight. We may have been created a lower than the angels, but there's a long way to go before we hit the bottom. Every year, we strap on the lead weights to see if we can sink a little lower than the year before.
Occasionally, the Christmas message finds hearing over the carnage, like a synthetic Carols of the Bells over the mall sound system. Judea was a miserable place in BC whatever. The Bethlehem inns were as crowded as a $6 dollar video carousel. Like mall cops, the Temple guards were breaking up brawls at the money changing tables. Oblivious to good sense, tax collectors were skimming their usual profits. Pickpockets and cut purses roamed the lanes. Cutthroats stalked the lonely roads. The wealthy schemed to extend their holdings. The poor squabbled over a bedraggled pair of doves. The gaming tables were crammed with those with the coin to gamble.
It was into this filth and madness that the Son of God came to us -- still comes to us. Into our our unsilent nights, our uncalm and our unbright lives. His light is not the glitter of neon off tinsel and plastic, but a light of peace. Of seeing through and beyond the foolishness of our petty bargains and shallow bargain basement victories. Of embracing the pain that seeks its solace in deals. Of soothing the sorrow that searches for its quenching in battles over video game consoles. Of pointing to a joy that comes not from shunning the stinking mess of our distractions but from loving it into something worthy of the divine gaze that wishes it to be worthy of the name attached to the frayed name tag dangling from a frazzled thread.
Child of God.