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Rediscovering the awe of Advent

December 11, 2012


Merchants have always touted shopping. 

It’s de rigueur to complain about greedy moneymakers and aggressive, insane shoppers on the recently dubbed Black Friday.  Decry the madness if you must but remember that it’s not a recent phenomenon; shopping on the day after Thanksgiving has simply grown in a logical, efficient progression over the decades.  Internet shopping and increasingly earlier store openings were anticipated in a quainter way some 40 years ago by the arrival of the Sears Roebuck catalogue in the mailbox, an event my younger brother and I eagerly anticipated so we could drool daily over page after page of toys and games.  The post-Thanksgiving commercial interest has been around since well before the Great Depression when President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress adjusted the Thanksgiving holiday slightly to give the economy a boost by adding a few shopping days before Christmas. 

I grow weary of the complaints over store hours and Christmas disrespect, not because I’m an addicted shopper or the son of a shopper, but because the grousing tends to repeat the same clichés, to sound self-righteous and to demand that merchants and shoppers conform to “my schedule of appropriateness.” Worst of all, these complaints, I believe, originate not from faith, but from unfaith.  

No merchant or conspirator – no matter how clever or devious – can destroy another person’s Christmas. Only the believer him- or herself can keep Christmas and only that same person  can destroy it and it’s not the role of the merchant to greet adherents in any certain way when they  shop or keep store hours to please the whim of the most conscientious practitioner of any particular faith group. 

Even if a group of wicked conspirators did want to destroy Advent and Christmas, taking a page from Paul in Romans 8, neither merchants or atheists or really bad Christmas music or tacky Christmas decorations or Santa at Halloween or any non-Christian faith group or commies or aliens or professional sports teams or 24-hour shopping channels or fluoride in the drinking water or anything else in all creation can separate Christians from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Incarnation, which for the church means God with us in Christ Jesus, is not a bit of news that waxes or wanes with stock markets, tide tables, BCS standings or the death of Hostess Twinkies. 

Honestly, about the only thing that might come close to ruining my Advent/Christmas spirit is hearing one too many persons complaining about how godless people are ruining their Christmas.  Many churches are challenging their adherents to re-think Christmas as a way of focusing on the deeper, richer meaning of the holiday. One hopes that such a focus might result in some church people abandoning their same old practices, eschewing their same old complaints, embracing new perceptions and realizations and maybe even rediscovering a healthy sense of awe about this most holy season. 

The Rev. Creede Hinshaw is the senior pastor at Wesley Monumental UMC in Savannah. He can be reached at


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