I used this picture on Facebook to advertise for the annual Thanksgiving Day Eucharist at my parish, Saint Paul’s in Foley, Alabama. As I posted it, I wrote these [admittedly snarky] words, “Join us as we give God thanks and praise at 10am before you go stuff yourself silly and then “save” all sorts of money buying things you don’t need thanks to advertising and tryptophan induced sleep deprivation.” I deleted most of it before posting a safe invitation on Facebook, but two days later, I still fill a little guilty about it. Guilty about deleting it, that is.
On Sunday morning, as we recite the Psalm appointed for Advent 1, Year B, we will thrice pray these words, “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; * show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.” Honestly, I can’t think of more appropriate words to pray after a weekend of gluttony, envy, and credit card debt. I won’t get all snippy about stores opening on Thanksgiving. Every year, I thank God that the grocery store is open so that I can buy pickled okra for bloody mary’s or butter for the mashed potatoes. What I will get all soap-boxy about is our cultural drive toward more. Black Friday (and now Early Bird Thanksgiving Thursday) merely takes advantage of a predisposition in American culture toward over-consumption. Be it turkey and stuffing or iPhones and flat screen TVs, we like to have more than enough, and we’ll go deep into debt in order to ensure it.
The alternative to that, an alternative that is evidenced in the life and ministry of Jesus and is enunciated in the writings of Saint Paul, is the Christian call to contentment. Around the dinner table on Thursday mid-afternoon, families of all shapes, sizes, and religious backgrounds from Muslim to Jewish to Christian to Atheist will pause to give thanks for the things they have in their life: health, home, family, and material comfort chief among them. If we were truly thankful for those things, then they would be enough. We would be content with what we’ve got, not scouring the internet for the next big thing.
I realize this is naive of me. I know it is not a popular opinion. I’m sure most would blame it on Madison Avenue, but I really think that the insanity of Early Bird Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are indicative of our human frailty, sign and symbol of our sinfulness. And so, I hope this Sunday, we’ll take a moment in the midst of the madness to pause, give honest thanks, and pray for God’s restorative work to create room for contentment, even in our always wondering souls.