December 3, 2013

Mark Millican: Advent can be an adventure

Mark Millican

— Black Friday.

Small Business Saturday.

Cyber Monday.

It’s hard to remember — did we take off last Thursday for an actual day of Thanks-giving?

I know, I know. A case could be made it’s hypocritical for someone in the newspaper business whose salary is partially paid by advertisers to take them to task for heralding that shopping season is underway. But it does seem we overlook — maybe not actually forget — the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas in our rush to get those shopping days started sooner and sooner.

For example, we were hit with the dire news recently that not only would prime shopping days be fewer since Turkey Day came so late in the month, but the recent government shutdown would knock projected overall retail sales off by 2 percent.

Huh?

The worst example of shopping fever happened in Long Island, N.Y., when a worker at a large retail store was trampled to death as the doors opened the day after Thanksgiving. Then shoppers became angry when other store employees and emergency personnel tried to establish a safe zone to help the man.

Black Friday, indeed.

As John Stonestreet pointed out last week in a BreakPoint.org commentary on Advent season, sometimes we get to feeling like Charlie Brown when he cried out to Linus in the TV classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Can’t anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?”

And Linus’ response, reciting the story of the Baby Jesus from the Book of Luke, was classic — and extraordinary — television viewing. A documentary several years ago on the success of “Peanuts” told how Charles Schulz fought Hollywood producers to keep the biblical story in the cartoon special — and won. After all, he was the author of the comic strip and evidently believed the Author of the Bible.

Stonestreet opined that the diverse characters in the Advent story (from the Latin “adventus” for arrival, signaling the Christmas season is nigh) shared a common bond. Mary, Elizabeth, Zacharias, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, Anna and Simeon should all have been aware of the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah, and realized God’s promises of old were coming true in their midst — in stunning detail.

If we can get that perspective, Stonestreet continued, that all this was happening as something God had planned and spoke through his prophets about for thousands of years, then we too can get excited. And why not? Just reading the angel Gabriel’s words  to Mary — “With God, nothing will be impossible” — broadens our horizons and fills us with hope and excitement for the future.

It’s really up to us, isn’t it? The wonder of Christmas, I mean. Aside from the TV specials — animated or otherwise — plus the decorations, caroling, Christmas dinners and parties, and gifts, surely it would behoove us to read the first two chapters in Luke and Matthew, share the passages with our families and seek out those who have much less than we do. In other words, live out the Christmas story ourselves.

Perhaps I’m a dreamer, but I envision Jesus saying to us all, “Share my love with someone this special season.” As Linus would conclude, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Indeed.