(or “Jesus is coming: What do we expect?“)

I’d like to frame this part of the story of my family’s trip to Cambodia by introducing (belatedly!) Christine Sine’s invitation to other bloggers to join her in some Advent and Christmas reflections. I’ve been following Christine’s blog, Godspace, for a while, and I was intrigued in early November when she proposed a “synchroblog”. There would be two questions for everyone to consider:

  1. On November 23rd: Jesus is coming: What do we expect?
  2. On December 28th: Jesus came: Did we get what we expected?

I say “I was intrigued”, but as it turns out, I was also too busy getting ready for the trip to participate in the blogging part of the exercise. However, the question of expectations stuck with me all throughout our trip preparations. My thoughts (mostly without actual answers to the questions) went something like this…

What do I expect? I really have no idea. I’m about to immerse my family in a foreign culture at the beginning of Advent. The season will be stripped of all of its cultural baggage that it carries here in the United States. We will see both poverty and riches. There will be many things that my children can’t fathom right now – things that they’ve never been exposed to before. There will be things that I only begin to imagine. How will they respond? How will I respond? I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to the trip…

A few days later, with the question still bouncing around my brain, I read CNN’s story on Wal-Mart’s Black Friday Deals:

They may as well call it Black Thursday. Joining a slew of other national retailers, Wal-Mart said it too will open its doors nationwide on Thanksgiving night.

Not to be one-upped by Target, which recently announced it would open at midnight on Black Friday, Wal-Mart said it will kick off its Black Friday deals at 10 p.m. on Thursday.

“Our customers told us they would rather stay up late to shop than get up early, so we’re going to hold special events on Thanksgiving and Black Friday,” Duncan Mac Naughton, Wal-Mart’s chief merchandising officer, U.S., said in a statement.

You could follow my link to read the rest of the story. You may not want to. My reflections on Christine’s original question continued…

What do I expect? I’m still not sure, but it’s got to be better than this. The Black Friday shopping tradition in the United States has always left a bitter taste in my mouth. For one thing, it glorifies our already out-of-control consumption. For another, we ignore Advent. We skip past the season of preparation. Shucks – we even skip past Christmas. We go right to the part we like: the gift giving of Epiphany. And we conveniently ignore the part that comes afterward: the flight to Egypt and the killing of the young and innocent in order to maintain power.

And now, we’re just going to rush through Thanksgiving as well. Why don’t all these retailers just stay open all day Thanksgiving? Wouldn’t that be so much more convenient for all of us? A four-day shopping weekend to kick-off a whole month of consumption?

I am so glad that I will not be in the country when all of this is happening.

And all of that was in my mind when I had this thought a few days later…

What if it’s satire – this early store opening on Thanksgiving that Wal-Mart is doing? What if they’re actually being prophetic? What if their intent is to so exaggerate this Black Friday thing that it becomes a mirror that we hold up to ourselves to see our own selfish greed – our need to consume more and more and more. And what if we’ve all missed the satire?!


Anyway – those were the thoughts that I carried with me to Cambodia.

Up next: Thanksgiving in Cambodia