“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42)
Do you know why the day after Thanksgiving is called “Black Friday”? It’s not a reference to race, of course, nor does it refer to the darkened madness of some early morning shoppers.
No, it’s about money. Many stores operate in the red (deficit) for much of the year, and count on huge Christmas sales to get their books into the black (profit). The term is a throwback to times when accountants worked manually on paper ledgers, with red ink showing losses and black ink gains.
So, our shopping at Christmas enables a lot of businesses to finally get into the black for their fiscal year, hence the name “Black Friday.” Christmas is a cash cow for retailers. Is it any wonder that Christmas is commercialized?
Let me ask, have you ever stepped into the shoes of those ill-fated cashiers who work the checkout lines on Black Friday? It’s pitiful. The stampede of shoppers who flood the doors, caroming through the aisles, acting as if they’d all been summoned by “come on down” on The Price Is Right. Discretion, diplomacy, and etiquette all thrown to the wind. Push, shove, jockey, squeeze through to seize the “hurry, while supplies last” bargain-basement price.
And amidst the frenzy are the poor, sleep-deprived cashiers — fatigued legs, bunions screaming, trained to keep smiling while the incessant army of insolent consumers march to their cash register. Do you recall way back in the ’70s when Johnny Paycheck had that hit song, “Take This Job and ——- It”? Yeah, that one. I think this was the job he wrote about.
My heart goes out to those cashiers and everyone who works with the public. We are hard to please. I especially have compassion for highway workers, firemen, hospital staffers, law enforcement, the military, livestock farmers and utility workers. The list goes on and on. For many people, whether the day is a national holiday or not, you may have to work.
I remember a few Christmases when I was called in while employed by the electric utility company. These are not warm, fuzzy memories of the holiday, but cold, miserable ones. Both were due to major storms that left tens of thousands of people without electricity.
As precious as Christmas was to me, the job came first and saying “no” to helping was not an option. So, I put on my Carhartt’s and hard hat and went at it.
During one ice storm, I was called in on December 23rd and worked 18 hours, coming home about noon on Christmas Eve. I thought I was done and grabbed a few hour’s rest before heading to my in-laws for the annual feast. To my chagrin, I was paged during dinner and told to come back to work at Washington Court House by 10 p.m.
Bummer. I reported as instructed and was assigned a small dump truck without a working radio or heater. I scouted outages in the New Holland area through Christmas morning. It was really cold. By noon I was famished, and remember looking for a place to get a hot lunch.
I drove to Washington Court House in search for anything open and found I had two choices for my Christmas dinner: an overcooked, wrinkled hot dog at a gas station or the Chinese Buffet. Yes, the Chinese Buffet was open for business. It seemed I’d stepped into the movie “A Christmas Story” as I dined on some of the best General Tso chicken I’ve ever tasted. Or maybe I was just really hungry.
There are lots of people who dedicate their lives to helping us enjoy ours. Christmas is a great time to say “thank you” with a Christmas card, an extra big tip, a small gift, or even just a handshake.
For instance, I like to recognize my Rumpke Man, the guy who arrives every week to thanklessly dispose of the junk we leave out for him. On trash day this week I put a small Christmas bag with a note and gift for him behind my trash. It was gone when I retrieved the empty cans, so either he got it or it was prematurely disposed of at his dump. At least I tried.
Do you have any neighbors who are alone for Christmas? Widows or widowers you know are lonely and in need? There are folks in nursing homes and hospitals, living at the Homeless Shelter or staying nights at the drop-in shelters, or some who reside in the woods (seriously), who won’t have a Christmas anything like ours. Is there anybody you can reach out to?
My in-laws had a neighbor who lived in a small house they rented out next to their home. This was years ago, and his name was Mr. Garrison, now deceased. I don’t know his story, or if he had any relatives or friends anywhere. What I do know is that he was elderly, lived alone and nobody ever visited him.
Every year on Christmas Eve, my Father-in-law would fill a plate heaped full of hot food and deliver it with a warm smile and “Merry Christmas” greeting. I suspect that was the highlight of Mr. Garrison’s entire year.
We know that Christmas is about the infant Jesus, delivered by the virgin Mary, who grew to become Savior and Lord. For those of us who believe that Jesus was crucified for our sins, was buried and then resurrected, we have some responsibilities. Like taking care of widows and orphans, caring for the infirm, visiting prisoners, and loving those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Jesus said (Matthew 25:37-40): “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ This Christmas, serve somebody who needs you. Jesus will be blessed as you do.
Next week we’ll talk about looking ahead to the New Year … or should we?
Dave Hinman is Pastoral Elder at DOVE Church. Reach him at [email protected].