It was “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving. I knew the stores would be busy but I still needed a couple of gifts so I decided to venture out. My first stop was at a computer store.
“Good idea, coming in so late. You missed the early crowd,” said the clerk, who was young, maybe 20. The time was 9 a.m.
“How early did you open?” I asked.
“We opened at 5 a.m. but most of the stores around here opened at midnight,” she replied.
The clerk seemed surprised that I hadn’t made it a point to get to the store before the doors opened in order to get the best bargains. I assured her that if getting the best bargains meant that I would have to be there before dawn, then I was just as happy to have missed the opportunity.
“A man named John was sent from God … to testify to the light … he was not the light, but came to testify to the light.” For hundreds of people on “Black Friday” morning the only “light” they were interested in was the “blue light special” — the bargains that you can only find if you’re willing to get up and go out in the dark. It also struck me that if customers are willing to stand in line outside the store before the sun comes up, then the people who work in the stores have to be there even earlier. What is it that makes all of these people willing to get up in the middle of the night? The answer, in a word, is Christmas! That’s what all this hustle and bustle is testifying to. It’s all happening because 2,000 years ago God chose to come into our world as a tiny baby. Jesus is the light that makes it possible for all of these people to go out in the dark; He is the light to which the busyness of the season testifies.
Advent nights are long and dark but Christmas lights give testimony to the coming of Emmanuel. For what are we willing to get up before dawn? What testimony do we give to a world waiting in darkness?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.