Of what cannot be found in a store…

As the beloved Christmas carol says: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

Or is it?

The Thanksgiving prelude and its Yuletide dénouement is billed largely as a “feel good” time of year, when families get together and old friends gather ‘round singing fa-la-la. People and businesses break out their lights and craft vast displays in their yards and storefronts.

Upon the lighted marquee church signs there are earnest pleas for folks to remember the reason for the season, but is that they really want? Are our churches really driving home the depth and breadth of what this season signifies and, if so, are they practicing what they’re preaching?

Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Have a holly jolly Christmas and all that jazz. That’s the pre-packaged Madison Avenue consumerist paradigm we’re walking and talking in, is it not?

Well, I don’t buy it, not for one second.

The truth is that the Thanksgiving observance was hastily shoved aside in favor of earlier than early shop-til-you-drop zealotry.

Call me a radical if you like but I am not a fan of this “Black Friday” trend that keep creeping earlier and earlier into the year. A cursory glance at the current poll on my newspaper’s website shows I’m not alone.

The promise of a few, super-limited-time offers prompt people to stand in line outside of big box stores well before dawn in the mad, sleep-deprived quest that trumps reason, need and even desire.

“I bought five toasters and three video game consoles… I don’t know what I’m going to do with ‘em but they were 75 percent off!”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no commie anarchist. I don’t have a problem with businesses trying to make a buck. But ramping up sales to start only hours after the Detroit Lions have enjoyed their annual Turkey Day defeat at the hands of [INSERT OPPONENT HERE] is not just crass commercialism but downright un-American.

I believe the Wampanoag Indians made it very clear to the settlers at Plymouth Plantation in 1621 that Christmas shopping could not begin until at least sunrise of the following day. There’s also specific language in the Mayflower Compact concerning when trees should go up and just how early is “too early” to install one’s lights along the eaves and rooftops.

And if there isn’t, well, there should be.

Not only are our venerable cultural traditions being squandered but families are being squeezed out of much-needed time for communion with each other.

My own mother had to depart our Thanksgiving fête because of her responsibilities as a middle-manager at a local multinational retail corporation. Mom had to make sure no one went nuts and started clubbing people in order to make a break with an armload of flat-screens.

Others I know also had to venture out, if not as laborers then as participants.

I’m no “Grinch” and I certainly have no desire to be compared to “Ebenezer Scrooge” but there’s something deeper to this season that I fear is getting lost amidst the Black Friday hype and commercial Leviathan that is the Christmas moneymaking machine.

Hopefully last Thursday’s message of gratitude for the deliverance and manifold blessings we enjoy here in the West conveyed something deeper still. Moreover, I hope some effort is made to consider the truly humbling nature of the message of Christmas.

Christmas tells us that we are broken, so helpless and destitute from our own corruption that it took the incarnation of the Creator of the Universe to enter in to human history to even start to bring order to our chaos.

Of course, He was also executed for his efforts.

As the holiday shopping roars into high gear, I would beg for a trifle more honesty with ourselves as we consider the glorious Advent of the Christ-child some two millennia ago.

If we’re at all honest with ourselves, we understand that it doesn’t matter how much tinsel we hang, how much Bailey’s and eggnog we consume, or how much stuff we buy at 110 percent off.

At the end of the day we are all still left looking for answers to the darkness that permeates our world and our souls.

The answer for that need is not found for half off in a bright and comfortable department store but can only be found in dirty manger and an empty Cross.

Unto us a child is born. Unto us a Son is given.

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