Thanksgiving is a USA national holiday that is celebrated on the last Thursday of November. And the Friday after has become the largest shopping day as people get up in the wee hours of the night to stand in line in the dark, waiting for stores to open so they can buy merchandise at super discounted prices. It seems as if once the day of giving thanks—or at least that’s what it is supposed to be—is over, the materialism of the Christmas season kicks into high gear.
This year I also noticed that the Friday following Thanksgiving Thursday is also the day my neighborhood morphs from its quiet, wooded Thomas Kincaid-like setting into a electrified rainbow of homes and trees that seems to be an advertisement for Thomas Edison and the invention of electricity. The kids love seeing all the lights, and I must admit I do too…but still I can’t help but wonder as I drive past thousands of brightly glowing bulbs and the illuminated Santas and reindeer, “Did Jesus have any idea that this is what would become of his birthday?”
Soon it will be December 1st, the day that officially begins the Christmas Season. Crossing into December seem to me like the starting line for the runners to begin their race as the calendar calls out, “Ready, Set—Go!” And there I go, off to the stores armed with my mental list of the many things I want to buy for my friends and loved ones.
Gift-giving, holiday parties, and being with loved ones are not bad things…after all, this all did start with the intention of celebrating the birth of Jesus (even though many now know that Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th). But one of the things I resent about this season is how all the retailers, whether they be brick and mortar stores or online sellers, attempt to manipulate consumers.
The advertising typhoon hits us with electronics, toys, clothes, and every other piece of debris it picks up along the way. I hate that I am tempted with thoughts that I need stuff that a month ago I never even gave a whisper of a thought to. The reality is that the holidays are the time when merchants pull out all the stops as they attempt to influence your purchasing by targeting every one of your senses. Displays use the perfect colors to get our attention, and they also play the perfect music, much like a siren’s call to “Buy me, Buy me!” They even employ smell. Have you ever noticed that branded stores often have their own special “branded smell?”
As I thought about all this marketing, my mind turned to Jesus. He never employed any special marketing techniques but instead simply said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men (and women) unto me” (John 12:32). Far too often, people promote their version of Christianity, their denomination and doctrines, their form of praise and worship. But ultimately people are not actually drawn to Jesus by those things. They are drawn to him because he, and he alone, fills a deep need in the human heart to be loved, accepted, and for the person to know that they are okay. Let’s always keep in mind that he is the reason for the season, and he is the one we need to place all our focus on.