Sunday, December 01, 2013

Out of Darkness

Student assembly address:

Did you know there’s now a web site called

It features a giant “ticker” that tracks the number of people who’ve been killed or injured as the result of Black Friday, and underneath, there’s a link to particular news stories about these injuries. 

Here are a few stories from Black Friday from four days ago:

  • An 11 year old girl was sent to the hospital after being stampeded during an early morning opening of a Walmart store in Boston
  • A person was stabbed when two men got into an argument over a parking space outside another Walmart in Virginia.
  • Two men got into a fight inside Walmart in Rialto, California, and when a policeman tried to break it up, he was hurt and had to be rushed to the hospital.
  • An employee was injured in an Arkansas Walmart when customers got out of hand competing with each other to get the last few sales items.

(Apparently Walmarts are dangerous places to be on Black Friday.)

According to the ticker, there’ve been 7 people killed and 90 people injured on Black Friday since they started keeping statistics in 2006.

There’s something obviously perverse here. The very season we celebrate—the coming of the Prince of Peace--has become  cause for a “dog eat dog” competitiveness to see who can get the best prices on the most stuff, even to the point we hurt each other to get these things.

This week we begin the season of Advent, a period of four weeks when the Church asks us to prepare for the birth of Jesus at Christmas.  St. Paul, writing in his letter to the Romans, tells us bluntly:

Brothers and sisters:
You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light.  (Romans 13:11-13)

As we go about our lives these next four weeks—four very busy weeks of tests, papers, studying, exams, buying presents, playing sports, preparing for concerts, practicing---let us take St. Paul’s admonition seriously, to wake up from our spiritual slumber, to throw off the works of darkness and to put on the armor of light.

How do we do that this Advent? We look to serve each other, to place others' needs before ourselves. We go out of our way to build other people up, rather than tear them down, by finding ways to genuinely compliment them. We carve out of our day some time for prayer. We find ways to appreciate the people who are our friends and family, and forgive those who have hurt us. We ask God to help us. 

If we do these things, then Christmas for us will become something far more meaningful than the accumulation of presents. It will become an opportunity for us to draw closer to our families, closer to our friends, and closer to God.

O Come,  O Come, Emmanuel!