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Monday, November 29, 2021

Jesus & Walmart

I crossed paths with my neighbor on Friday and was greeted with, “Happy-Day-After-Thanksgiving!” I retorted, “Or as it’s more commonly known, Black Friday!” And then I added, “But in reality, many people go deeply into the RED on Black Friday.”

The shopper’s bonanza that traditionally follows eating too much and gorging on about ten hours of football has changed. We now know businesses start their "Black Friday" sales early. I think it might now be March.

Anyone can readily tell that much of the purchasing is for self—not others. I mean, how many people are giving 80" televisions out over the holidays? I visited a Bath and Body Works (B&BW) store on Saturday and saw people scarfing up more wallflower fragrance refills than 2022 has weeks! Again, who surprises dear Aunt Doris on Christmas with a fragrance refill? (Although it might help that musty smell in her closet.)

Actually, I felt a bit guilty going to B&BW on Saturday. Especially after a morning read of an article titled, “What We Profess on Sunday Ought to Apply to Black Friday.” I don’t think this writer and I are on the same page. One example was her comment, “This free-market economy and the consumerism it has nurtured are not a reflection of all that we hold sacred. They are not a reflection of God’s economy.”

To challenge our habits of indulging our children’s wishes by cleaning out the Walmart aisles, she asks “What would happen if we thought about every dollar we spend this season as an expression of our faith?”

So who is this angel watching over our shoulder? Her name is The Rev. Rosa Lee Harden. Rosa is the executive producer of Faith+Finance. She was also a co-founder of SOCAP, the largest conference on investing for social good. We might consider her a “money critic.”

Her heart is perhaps best expressed when she ponders questions as to how the more spiritually-centered person should think. “We would spend differently. Would we spend our money in ways that help create a more just local economy, in ways that begin to address the racial wealth disparity and the needs of our neighbors? From what I understand of Scripture, that seems like a more fitting way to celebrate the birth of Christ.”

Such socially minded and somewhat anti-too-capitalistic shoppers will be pleased to know that Saturday was designated as “Small Business” Saturday. This was likely thought up by the myriad of merchants who knew they couldn’t compete with the outrageous activity on Black Friday. Their hope during Christmas was that you still had money left! Or credit.

Then, of course, there’s Cyber Monday. Online retailers offer a courtesy gesture to the weekend shoppers by giving us a break on Sunday. But then…wake up and smell the coffee, friend. AND, turn on your computer for even MORE great deals!!

Speaking of Sunday, so far I haven’t seen any retailers suggesting this: “Why not go to church on Sunday and write a big, fat check to support your pastor??” You’ll be pleased to know it’s not too late for this. And your pastor would certainly appreciate it.

Are we done doling out dollars yet?? Nope. There’s Giving Tuesday!! By this point, after all that earlier spending, you’ve looked inward and found your soul feeling a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge. And yet, there is the sweet Tiny Tim asking for a Christmas blessing. C’mon, man…'tis the season!

Speaking of the season, yesterday began Advent on the Church calendar. These are days of preparation to welcome the coming Christ. To help our children appreciate this time, there are even chocolate Advent calendars varying in quality and price. We picked up the ones at our local Aldi.

They also have the “adult”version. Online I saw you could buy “NIPYATA!® BOOZY ADVENT CALENDAR: 12 SHOTS OF CHRISTMAS®!” Hmm. What’s wrong with this picture?

Perhaps the best reality about this “holiday season” is to remind ourselves of two important truths: 1) we don’t really know when Jesus was born and 2) He never requested we celebrate His birth. Or get hyped up on sales and gimmicks for giving.

Frankly, I really don’t think it bothers Jesus if you shop at Walmart. (Oooh…I wonder if that 80” television can be returned?)

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