Black Eye Friday

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, December 11, 2014 0 comments

by Steve Risner

We are in the wonderful time of year where we first take time to be grateful—to truly be thankful for the things we have and for family, the land we are blessed to live in, and the spiritual blessings to boot—followed by a time of giving and sharing and, once again, taking time with family. But is that really what this great nation, the most prosperous nation on earth, really does on this day that Abraham Lincoln ordained as a day to give thanks for the blessings of our Maker?

Stats for Black Friday (which is no longer Black Friday but Thanksgiving evening and Friday all day as well as the following Monday) show that, in general. Americans spend over $2 billion over a weekend on stuff. Over 20 million people hit Walmart in a 4-hour period on Thanksgiving night. Is this really how we as a people say, “Thank You, God, for showering us with the blessings You so generously give”? Leave it to Americans to celebrate a day of thanks and follow it immediately by fighting huge crowds of people to save a few bucks on junk we don't really need. Yes, I said fighting and I meant it in the most literal sense.

Since 2008, we have murdered 8 people and reportedly caused nearly 100 injuries on Black Friday! Does that bother anyone else? We celebrate thanks and gratitude (which I honestly feel most of us fail to do on the holiday named “Thanksgiving”) and follow it up with murder and maiming to save 40% on a piece of junk that will literally be thrown away in 2 years because it's broken or obsolete. We are a nation that has sacrificed honor and respect for the acquisition of things—most often meaningless things.

On Thanksgiving day this year, I sat down with my wife and children to a meal—a meal we first expressed thanks for (which we do at every meal)—and talked about what we were thankful for. I asked Israel (my oldest) what he was thankful for. He said, “That Jesus died on the cross.” That's a good one, I thought. When asked, Zeke (my second oldest) said, “My family.” Another good one. I'm thankful that my kids see the value in the family unit and they appreciate the support they receive from their family. Judah, my 3rd son and the most talkative kid I know, responded with, “Jesus dying on the cross, my family, my friends, church, school, Jael [his sister]....” he really went on and on and I can't recall it all. He loves to talk. That was nice. Then I turned to my youngest boy, Uriah, and asked him what he was thankful for. I really didn't expect a response. “Eat!” he said. Yes. He loves to eat and I'm sure he was genuinely thankful for food. My wife said she was thankful for our daughter, Jael, who was just born in September. She followed that with saying she was grateful for the boys, too, so they didn't feel bad. I took the time to make sure my kids knew it was important at that moment but also in all things to be thankful. We set aside a day in this country to be thankful, but it should be a lifestyle. The grateful heart is a happy heart. A man of gratitude is one everyone enjoys being around. We then read the proclamation that Abraham Lincoln gave in 1863 declaring the 4th Thursday in November as a day to remember our God and His blessings. I encourage you to read it. I don't write these things to brag or puff myself up or anything like that. In fact, I admit I have been lost in the craziness at times and forget the point. I miss it completely and look back at the last 4-5 weeks and say, “Whoa! I'm a jerk. I didn't take any time to be grateful or to think of anyone else.” It gets hard in our society. I confess.

So then we move in to a season of sharing and giving. How ironic is that! We're thankful. We destroy people at the big box stores to save a couple bucks. And then we act like we're generous.

Lincoln made the statement that “we are prone to forget the source from which they [blessings] come” and I tend to agree. Thanksgiving originally had nothing to do with pilgrims and Native Americans or turkeys. It had to do with genuine thankfulness for the blessings our God bestows on us. President Lincoln said, “They [the blessings] are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” And here we are today hitting Target at 6 pm on Thanksgiving so we can trample men, women, and children literally to death to buy a Bluray player for $15 less than we can on Saturday. That's because we want to be generous, right? Probably not. Even though the average American family spends a whopping $800 on Christmas and nearly $300 per child, statistics show us that the average American will spend nearly $150 on something called “self gifting.” Don't get me started on the stuff we buy each year that we fully intend to throw in the trash on December 26th. This time of year we celebrate the most amazing gift the universe has ever known. We celebrate the time in history where heaven literally met earth—two realms would collide to give us God in the flesh. We celebrate the giving of this gift and the gifts given by the Magi by sharing with others. Yet we spend so much on ourselves, kill for a deal, and throw away a huge portion of the things we acquire. In fact, we fight and kick and scheme to save a few bucks on something that will be thrown aside or away in 2 years or less.

Many of us, myself included, will get so caught up in the hoopla and hubbub that we'll miss the point completely. We'll fret about the turkey and forget to be thankful for it and the rest of the bounty we harvest each year. We'll worry about the “perfect gift” while trying to get it at the best price and forget about the person we're buying it for. We'll fail to turn our eyes to heaven and say, “Thank You for the generosity—You owe me nothing yet You pour out blessing after blessing and thank You so very much for the indescribable gift of Your Son Who came into this world as a baby to live the life of a man, die a terrible death in my stead, and rise again so I can live in Your very presence for all eternity.”

We get worked up and exhausted so it's all just right. What did the tablecloth look like last year at Christmas dinner? What were the sweet potatoes like? Was your sister's hair amazing? Was the house you spent the most time at spotless or was it a little cluttered? Was the paper on your gifts something you'd see from a professional? You probably can't recall any of this. It's meaningless. Jesus Christ, family, blessings and so much more: that's what this time of year is dedicated to—or was. Let's get back there.

Why do I write these things? “Why so serious?” as the Joker would ask. Let's take a moment to ponder the season. Let's recall that Easter is the only reason Christmas is a holiday. Let's consider the miraculous birth of our nation and the supernatural founding of this great place—the most blessed nation on earth, which I truly believe. Take some time and stress with your kids and grand kids or your family members how thankful you are for them and for the things God has given you. Tell your friends you appreciate them and relay a message of gratitude for the undeserved gifts God has given you. Ponder God's generosity in Jesus Christ. Consider He left a place you cannot possibly imagine in its splendor and greatness to be born in a barn as a vulnerable child who slept in a trough a donkey would eat from, only to live a perfectly sinless life and die for your sins and mine and rise again from the dead and ascend to the right hand of the Father. Man, that's awesome stuff!!! Have you considered it today? I encourage you to forget the trappings and particulars and celebrate what He's done for you and for us. He's worthy of our praise.

After considering His generosity, go out of your way to be generous. We all know families or individuals who have fallen on tough times. Sneak them a gift without their knowing. Bless them financially. Have you ever given a gift that hurt a little? Be open to His leading. I'm sure He could find someone you can bless. What an awesome privilege it is to be His hands to someone in need.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Ephesians 5:20 “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Colossians 3:15-17 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”