Burning eyes and injured shoppers filled our half-priced-TV-screens this time last year when reports broke of a woman who pepper-sprayed a crowd of early holiday shoppers at an L.A. Wal-Mart as they competed for half-priced X-Box 360s. Cell phone cameras captured the moments as shoppers pushed and shoved each other, while others cried out in pain as their eyes seared from the exposure to the lachrymatory spray. Black Friday 2011 had begun.
But what happened? What happened between dinner time on Thanksgiving Day, when the gratefulness of American hearts poured forth and friends and family passed the mashed potatoes and gravy, and Black Friday, when shoppers pushed each other to get closer to the bargains while cradling closely the “deals” they had already found? What happened between Thursday, a day characterized by fighting the food coma and watching football as a family, and Friday, a day characterized by shoppers who turn on their fellows with fists? How can gratitude morph into selfishness so quickly?
Maybe it’s because that’s who we really are. Maybe the Black Friday videos just reveals us as men and women with violence lying just below our skins, ready to cause temporary blindness for easier access to discounted merchandise. Are we really just selfish creatures at heart? Do the sentiments shown on Thanksgiving Day are really nothing more than just that, sentiments?
And I’m so confident because recently I came across this:
Some history: the video was originally a Coca-Cola commercial (kind of disappointing, maybe, but c’mon), that came from www.loveeverybody.com, which is a website that montages footage taken from surveillance cameras around the world capturing special moments between people. This one ranges in what it captures from couples sneaking kisses to friends greeting one another to strangers being utterly selfless. In a sense, the video shows humans being human. A stark contrast to the animal-like behavior recorded on cellphones at Wal-Mart.
The mystery of the Incarnation, which Advent is about to prepare us for, shows us who we as humans are supposed to be: not greedy shoppers looking for a bargain at all costs, but more like those in the montage, humans ready to shamelessly express love and friendship. Jesus’ coming is not to condemn us, but to reveal to us who we are destined to be. To be like Christ, to be truly human, is to avoid falling into the frenzy and mania of those who reach and grab for what ultimately has no value, Black Friday or not. To be Christian is to live out of the mystery of Christmas more than that of Black Friday: an extending out of divine love which cannot possibly be returned.