NORMAN — It’s here! Black Friday! As you sit down to read this paper, it is likely that thousands of shoppers have already spent millions of dollars. With Thanksgiving leftovers still in the refrigerator, Madison Avenue has declared today the first day of the Christmas season.
I will never forget my one and only foray into Black Friday. We had only been parents for a few years. I was still in school and our budget was tight. As relatively new parents, we wanted to provide our daughter with something beyond the ordinary. Yet, with limited funds our options were few. Relaxing in front of the TV after a filling Thanksgiving feast, I began to thumb through the store ads. There it was! The perfect gift for my little girl! And the price was “slashed!” We could make this work! But, there were only a “few” at each store. We would have to arrive when the doors opened at 5 a.m. Wrong! My wife informed me that we would have to arrive BEFORE the doors opened — you’re kidding me. So, before the sun had even peaked over the eastern seaboard, we were on the road to Tulsa. Our plan to arrive early was a smart one, because the crowd behind us grew as the hour approached. Did I mention that it was cold and the wind was blowing? The doors opened and the mad dash began. My wife went to find the shopping cart and I ran to find the coveted prize. Success! We claimed one of the few boxes on the showroom floor and with great pride we celebrated our conquest, anticipatingthe great joy of our daughter on Christmas Day—even though the guy in the red suit would get the credit.
But, the story is not over ... Leaving the store with our gigantic Playskool Playhouse box, it dawned on us that we had yet to consider how we were going to get it into our Achieva (2 doors, small trunk, little back seat). Did I fail to mention that while in the store it began to rain, as in the heavens openedup? Actually, the frigid, blowing wind made the rain look like sheets of water sweeping across the parking lot. I looked at my wife, shrugged my shoulders and said, “Let’s go.” We sprinted across the parking lot. Tearing into the soggy box, we pulled each piece of our playhouse out of the box and stuffed them into the trunk and back seat. Drenched, freezing, and battling the wind, we were about ready to go when my wife asked, “Did you get the directions?” Back to the box I went, retrieving the “key” to our morning adventure.
Gift giving is an important part of how many celebrate Christmas. Tragically, however, gift giving has become more about “stuff” and attempting to meet our insatiable lusts for bigger, better, and newer toys and gadgets. Someone said that Christmas gift-giving has degenerated to the point of trying to “find something for someone who has everything and needs nothing.” To think, we go into debt and divert needed resources for “stuff” that will be worn out or obsolete by next Christmas — if it even makes it out of the box!
What if we allowed Good Friday, instead of Black Friday, to inform our Christmas gift giving? Good Friday gift giving would transform the way we experience the Christmas season. It would turn our focus from “stuff” to relationships. Let’s remember that the first Christmas gift is described in John 3:16—For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son — Jesus —that we may have eternal life. The next Christmas gifts were given by Magi. They were valuable gifts that celebrated the life and purpose of Jesus’ life and anticipated His death. They were gifts of thanksgiving and worship that honored the Christ-child. With this as our inspiration, let’s give gifts that enhance and deepen our relationships this year. Let’s give gifts that honor, appreciate, or generously meet the needs of others. Some of these gifts may come from the store, many will not. But all of these gifts must come from the heart as we say Merry Christmas, a Savior is born, who is Christ the Lord.
The Playskool Playhouse was a hit on Christmas morning and served as a wonderful toy for all of our children through their growing up years. At some point along the way it was passed on to another family and today, I have no ideawhere that playhouse is. I will, however, always cherish my memories of that cold, rainy Friday morning spent with my wife. After all, Christmas gifts are really about relationships. So, as you look to give gifts this Christmas, will you let Good Friday, not Black Friday, guide your generosity and shape your memories.