Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Whosoever would be a man.........

In truth, given the obviously confused consumerist canrival that is our society, no holiday season rant could be more conformist than to talk about how the spirit of Christmas has been gutted by gluttonous gift giving. After all, the push for increasingly plusher products has become so extreme in some cases that it even defies caricature (insofar as these tendencies tend to caricature themselves). But what I want to ask in the midst of it all, is whatever happened to Thanksgiving? So asking this simple question will be my holiday rant for 2004.(There's more)

Several local radio stations are already endlessly droning on and on with every type of Christmas music that you can imagine. And its not just the music that drives me nuts after a while, but its the fact that we haven't even properly given Thanks, and were already poised to dive into the copious mounds of shredded wrapping paper and swim to our delight. Whatever happened to remembering the days when we had to rely on the graciousness of our indigenous brothers and sisters to help teach us how to plant the crops that put food on our tables? Perhaps if we offered a Christmas/Thanksgiving boxed set at Best Buy we could get more folks interested in thinking about Thanksgiving as more than just a rest/fuel stop on the way to the mall for the after Thanksgiving sale? I don't know, but I'm beginning to wonder if there's any holiday left in our culture that isn't up for sale or hasn't been sold already. Does anyone else feel this way, or am I simply overreacting to it all? But one thing is for sure....it makes me more appreciative of what we have together, and more ashamed of my own tendencies toward ingratitude.

5 comments:

Will said...

I couldn't agree more. There is little commercial value in Thanksgiving (Thankgiving presents?) so the stores seem to have decided to move from Halloween to Christmas. How sad.

I really resonated with your statement about tendencies toward ingratitudes. This is something I have been very conscious of in my own life lately. I have so much but my wealth cannot be measured in stuff bought at the mall. It is in friends and relationships, the community around me. Things that if properly cared for will grow more precious with time. I can't say that about a CD player.

james said...

I've become increasing interested each year in observing the Holy-days in the context of the Church calander.
Although I'm Canadian and our Thanksgiving comes toward the beggining of Oct. we always celebrated American T'giving in my house.
But it comes at an apropriate time. As we finish the Church year, we give thanks to Christ the King (the last Sunday of the Church Calandar), and for the many blessings bestowed on us through the Holy Spirit. Then we move into a time of penitence in Advent. When we reflect on the need of Emanuel and anticipate His second coming. It's not as sobering a time as Lent, but reflective none the less. Not till Christmas day do we anounce the First coming and celebrate the hope of the Second Advent.
I love the yearly excercise of shifting gears. It mimics my own weeks, days, moments in my head and in my relationships with God and those around me. I continually shift from reflect and penitence to celebration and thankgiving to sower and anticipation. This can happen in a moment, or over a day or week. Its similiar to the Story of Scripture and how we can look to our lives as mirrors to the history of God's interaction with His people.
This perspective makes the current observation of the holidays (Holy days) that much more out of touch. Gifts are great, giving great, but is what we turned the season into a massive effort to avoid looking inward and relizing the need to give thanks and the need for God With Us.

geoff said...

here's something that just occured to me....isn't it somewhat ironic that 'black friday' is the biggest shopping day of the year. the day after Thanksgiving - the holiday that celebrates gratitude and contentment as virtues - is a spending frenzy where we act out our discontentment, our 'need' for things. here's to the holy-days where we learn to receive the Christian virtue of contentment. enough is enough.

geoff said...

me again...thanks for your post billy. it is a keen observation and i enjoyed the reflections from will and james. clinton and lisa are out today (friday...the day after thanksgiving) celebrating 'buy nothing day' by riding the bus to various retail hot-spots and speaking with people about alternatives to the shopping frenzy and offering new ways of giving/receiving. there is a great front page article in today's USA Today that suggests many North Americans are ready to simplify their holidays and renew a family-oriented celebration. perhaps we are on the cusp of a cultural revolution thanks to groups like Adbusters and saints like Lisa and Clinton. hope is also a Christian virtue :) especially in times when it seems like the battle is over...

billy said...

Thanks to Geoff, Will, and James for the feedback on this post. Its definitely a confusing time to be alive, and I'm not quite sure about the best way forward for our society. But I am pretty confident that it doesn't involve continuing to endlessly pursue pleasures and products that we really don't need. However, at the same time, I do recognize that people need jobs and a poor economy doesn't exactly serve to foster the common good. So, I don't really know what to say, except to hope that we can find better and more satisfying employment for workers and a more balanced and sustainable life for all of us. These are complex issues that admit of no easy answers. But even more than that I believe that they are issues of character and moral determination that demand more than we can give when we're only looking "under the sun." Perhaps we need to look backward to the wisdom of Solomon as we consider the meaning of what we call Christmas?