Planning For Black Friday? Remember This, Christmas Is Not Your Birthday.

“Christmas is not your birthday,” exclaimed Mike Slaughter to his large United Methodist congregation located just outside of Dayton, Ohio in 2004.  “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.”  It was a sermon that Mike no doubt had been anticipating.  He was setting the stage for a ministry proposal to his congregation; a proposal that would ask all of his congregants to spend half of what they would on gifts for Christmas, and then donate the other half to jumpstart a dynamic ministry that would bring life to those living in war-torn southern Sudan.  The immediate result was $667,000, and since 2005 this church has given over $4.4 million.

Christmas is not your birthday…interesting concept, isn’t it?  This provocative statement not only flies in the face of our perspective on the Christmas holiday, but it also challenges our more modern trends of being an entitled people.  Let me explain…


It’s becoming more commonly known now that December 25th wasn’t actually the day Jesus was born.  I mean, it could have been…but chances are it was not.  Remember from your history class that the Roman Empire under Constantine switched in a relatively short time period from being hostile towards Christianity to embracing it as its state religion.  That means that previously practiced religions in Rome got the boot, leaving an empire confused as to how to practice this new faith.  And so, to make things easy, Rome simply turned previous religious holidays (or pagan holidays) into Christian ones.  Around December 25th was the holiday called Saturnalia, where gift-giving was a common practice.  Thus, along with the celebration of Christ’s birth came the practice of giving gifts.  This was harmless, really, because after all the three wise men gave gifts to Christ and later St. Nicholas would reward children with treats and gifts.


Yet somewhere along the line we here in the Western world got a little too used to receiving gifts to the point where it was expected.  At one point gift-giving was a compliment to the celebration of Christ’s birth, but now it has become the driving force of some of our greatest societal ills such as entitlement, consumerism, and materialism.  Some of you may remember reading a couple years ago about Jdimytai Damour, a Walmart worker in New Jersey who was trampled to death by bargain-crazed, Black Friday shoppers.  This is what we’ve come to.  A celebration of a life-giving Christ turned into a life-taking consumer mob.

If you’re planning for Black Friday this week, I think it would be helpful for you to do a little self-reflection and remember that Christmas is not your birthday…nor is it your son’s or daughter’s.  Whether you’re Christian or not, I hope you grasp the concept of a life-giving Christmas.  My hunch is that when you do, you’ll receive a whole lot more than just material gifts.


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