This is Mr. Weber's Thanksgiving Day message to the students of St. Michael on Monday, November 21, 2016
A few years ago, my brother sent me a list of “First World Problems,”--a series of quips that mock how lazy we’ve become as part of our wealthy culture. To give you a sense:
• My hand is too fat to shove into the Pringles container, so I am forced to tilt it.
• I forgot to bring my smartphone with me when I used the bathroom, so I was bored the entire time.
• I can’t hear the TV while I’m eating crunchy snacks.
• My laptop is low on battery, but the charger is over there.
Those quips are funny, partly because there’s an element of truth to them. We live in a culture of excess, where our values become skewed in pursuit of things, at the expense of our relationships with God and with others. There’s no better evidence of this than what will happen around the United States on Friday of this week, the day after Thanksgiving—so called “Black Friday. Merchants tell us is the #1 shopping day of the year.
It’s also a day where we lose our minds.
There’s actually a web site called “blackfridaydeathcount.com” which tracks all the injuries and even deaths that occur on Black Friday around the United States. The site consists of a giant ticker which tracks all these casualties—the current number is 7 deaths and 98 injuries. And it tells the stories of each casualty.
A few years back, on BlackFriday in a Los Angeles Walmart, a woman was arrested for pepper spraying 20 fellow customers so she could clear the path to be the first one to get to the Xbox consoles that were on sale. There was a story of a woman who was trampled by the crowd when the doors to the store opened at 12 midnight on Black Friday morning. And there was also a story of a man who had just come out from shopping at Walmart in California at 1:45 a.m. , and was accosted at gunpoint by another man in the parking lot, who demanded that he hand over everything he had just purchased. The man, protective of his new stuff that he had been up all night to purchase, refused. He was shot. He was in the hospital, in critical but stable condition. The story didn’t report whether he was able to keep his things.
We are beginning the holiday season this week with Thanksgiving this Thursday, and when we come back together on Monday of next week, we will have begun Advent, a time of preparation for Christmastime. Let these two celebrations remind us of two things:
First, we really do owe God our gratitude. If you compare what we have here in this school, in this area, in our families and friends—compare that to peoples living anywhere else in the world—we are so incredibly blessed. But do we thank God for that? You all know the story in the gospels of Jesus curing the ten lepers of leprosy, but only one comes back to thank Jesus, and he asks, where are the other nine? Are we part of the 90% that forgets to thank him? Do we take all that we have for granted? When you sit down with your family for dinner on Thanksgiving, look around that table and truly thank God for all he’s given us!
And let the excesses of Black Friday remind us this Advent, that the world is still in need of a savior. We are still sick. Yes, Jesus came and died for us almost 2000 years ago, and he is ever ready to forgive us and heal us. But we forget that we need him. Perhaps that’s the most serious danger about being in a first world country—it’s not even the excess or the laziness, but that we tend to think of ourselves as self-sufficient, as independent, as NOT NEEDING a savior. People who have nothing rarely forget God. They pray to him for their next meal. They ask him to cure their daughter’s illness. They worry and pray about where they’re going to sleep when the winter comes. But too often, we believe our success is all about our talents, our brains, our good decisions, and we forget that all of the good things we enjoy are blessings from God, and that we still need him to be Lord of our families, Lord of our relationships, Lord of our school work and our business dealings and Lord of our decisions.
Recently, my computer at home had become very sluggish—irritatingly so. It’s been a while, so I spent some time this weekend defragmenting my hard drive, deleting old files, getting rid of some preferences that are clogging things up. It’s working much faster now.
As we prepare for Advent, let this be a time in our lives to do the same thing: to delete some of the things that are taking us away from God, to pray more, to study harder, to become more grateful for God’s gifts and more serious about our relationship with him. The psalmist prays for all of us when he says:
“Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then may we be saved.” (Psalm 80:3).