Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving and Black Friday: Invitations to Develop Contentment

Thanksgiving is a unique holiday—one that invites us to reflect on the blessings we have received during the past year.  Christians have the special blessing of knowing personally the One True God from Whom all blessings flow.  An intimate relationship with God is made possible by faith in Jesus Christ, and nurtured properly through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, regular nourishment from the Word of God, and fellowship with the people of God. 

A healthy relationship with God produces, among other virtues, the virtue of contentment (Hebrews 13:5).  Contentment is an attitude that flows out of a thankful heart.  Our Thanksgiving holiday can be an occasion to enjoy the blessings of family, friends, and food; but, it is also a time to nurture a heart of thankfulness and contentment by reflecting on the Person and provision of God.  

As a Christian, at times I have experienced the joy of contentment; but I have also experienced periods of discontentment.   For me, and perhaps for many, discontentment is a “default attitude.”  Contentment must be forged and refreshed daily in the midst of a culture that promotes discontentment through media and social pressures.   Under the guise of maintaining social status, improving efficiency, staying current, or “treating ourselves to what we deserve”, we are urged to buy the newest editions, models, or styles “while they last.”  

How does a person find contentment?  The Apostle Paul states, If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content (1 Timothy 6:8).  Paul indicates that in Roman culture, like our contemporary culture, contentment was not a default condition.   He testifies, Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am  (Philippians 4:11).   Paul “learned contentment” by practicing submission to spiritual disciplines such as we have noted above.  This is not a contentment, as some have chosen to pursue, through an acetic lifestyle of abstinence from ‘pleasures’ that are seen as hindrances to reaching spiritual goals. 

So, how can we apply a Christian perspective to the holiday season? Traditionally, Thanksgiving holiday has been squeezed on either side by two commercialized holidays, Halloween and Christmas; but, at least the two adjacent holidays have been separated in time from Thanksgiving by a month or more.  However, with each passing year, increasing numbers of retail stores are opening earlier on “Black Friday” or in the late evening hours of Thanksgiving Day itself.   

Some are reacting to Black Friday by observing “Buy Nothing Day.”  Not a bad idea.  But, I wonder what the observers of “Buy Nothing” choose to do instead.   Maybe Maggi Dawn’s blog entry , “Black Friday: Buy Nothing Day points us in the right direction.   She writes:

Last Friday, just before we began Reading Week at the [Yale] Divinity School, my team and I organized a Cafe Eucharist, the theme of which was Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks. One of the threads in the service was the disconnect between gratitude (thanks for what we have) and consumerism (the goal to get more, more, more). It feels somewhat urgent to me this week to resist the temptation to go shopping over the next few days. Half price practically everything is really tempting, especially just before Christmas. But I feel I would be paying with my soul, not just my dollars. We are going shopping today for the food we need, and firewood, and a tank of petrol/gas. No more. Then we are going to spend four days playing, watching movies, walking up some hills, visiting friends, eating enough but not to excess, reading by the fire, and enjoying the luxury of sleeping late in the mornings. And giving thanks.  Anyone want to join us?
How about you?  How have you spent Thanksgiving, and then Black Friday this year?  I have enjoyed being with our daughter and family, and precious time with our grandson, Caleb, and granddaughters, Kiara and Della.   Of course, they were gracious to allow me to finish this blog entry while watching the West Virginia Mountaineers defeat the Pitt Panthers in the “Backyard Brawl” 21-20. 

In our October entry, “Our Stewardship Is about God, Not Us,” we emphasized that godly stewardship is grounded in an awareness that The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7, Amplified Bible).   Celebrating Thanksgiving affords us the opportunity to apply the important ingredient of “giving thanks” to the a life of “reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord…”   May God help us to use both Thanksgiving and Black Friday to develop lives that honor God in a consumer culture every day of the year.


tammy said...

We divided our time between my family on Thursday, and Bill's family on Friday. Both were heavy on food, but light on thankfulness. It was wonderful seeing family, but usually our corporate "celebrations" are so secular they leave me quite cold. Our best observance took place on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when we had the privilege of sharing a meal with a group of Chinese students and visiting scholars. Along with other American Christians we talked about why we celebrate Thanksgiving, and why, and to whom we were thankful. We ended the night singing meaningful hymns. I felt like a Pilgrim breaking bread with the Indians. I also prayed that our friendship with the Chinese would be more sincere and long-lasting than the short-lived one between the Europeans and the Indians.

Regarding the Pitt/WVU game--we also watched it on Friday. I knew you would be watching it, and was glad your team won. I, however, have no football allegiance whatsoever, and find the whole phenomenon curious. Bill's brother went to Penn State and his whole family HATES Pitt just because they USED to be Penn State's rival, so to a man they were all cheering for WVU. Pitt hasn't played PSU for years, but here in the 'Burg that doesn't matter. We hates whom we hates and that's that!

Anonymous said...

Tammy, thank you for your comment with reflections on Thanksgiving and ways that the "good" get in the way of the "best." In a land of abundance, including an abundance of ways we can spend our time, we should be humbled and challenged all the more to "get wisdom" necessary to find the God-honoring balance. I've been impressed with the commitment you and Bill have had in leading your family toward "the best" God can provide.