A Sermon Somewhere: Shopping on Black Friday


There is an old preacher’s joke that goes, “I don’t know where but there is a sermon in there somewhere.”  This series builds off of that by trying to find the sermons hiding beneath our everyday experiences.  .  .and failing miserably.

I have never gone shopping on Black Friday.  In fact, I don’t recall ever leaving the house on Black Friday, except maybe to go for a run in the wilderness and not the wilderness of shopping carts, frantic grandmas, speeding suburbans, and angry house moms that is known as “the Costco parking lot.”  Instead for me, the “black” in Black Friday has always described the other side of my eyelids, which is what I spend most Black Fridays staring at.

But then it happened yesterday.  While watching one of three football games at my in-law’s place, Fred Meyer played an ad about 1,248 times that advertised a 40 inch television for $150.

The first 652 times I completely ignored the ad, but on that magical 653rd time, my father in law repeated, “$150 for a TV is not bad.”

Now my wife and I own one television.  It is 26 inches wide and has deplorable speakers.  We bought it for $450 right after we got married and it has served us nicely, except once or twice a year the remote randomly stops working.  The first time we went for months without using the remote before we randomly discovered that if you unplug the television, wait a few seconds and plug it back in, the remote works again.

Still, my wife and I have been dreaming about a new television, one where maybe the remote works ALL of the time and with better volume.

So, I looked up from my book and said, “What brand was it?”

They replied all at once:  “Surely you are not going try to get one tomorrow?  You would have to camp out in front of Fred Meyer now and even then you probably won’t get one.”

“Well it might be fun,” I mused, while I found the ad online, an ad that boasted, “Only 10 per store!  Sale starts at 5am!”

“Looks like a good deal and even if I didn’t get one the experience would give me great sermon material.”

After all, most congregants can’t relate to stories about sleeping all day on Black Friday and then waking up to do a 10 mile long run in the wilderness.  But standing in line waiting for a TV, throwing elbows, tackling toddlers and yelling, “Haha!  I got one!” when you laid fingers on the prize is a sermon worth preaching.

I mused over it for a few hours.  5AM is early but I have done it before for far less noble reasons than buying a television.  We did need a new one and did not have more than $200 to pay for it.  A new television for our family room would mean we could move the old one to our bedroom.  Having a television in your bedroom is one of those defining staples that you have finally arrived at the swanky middle class life.

But 5am was early.  And who would want to wake up at that time for a television?  But it wasn’t for the television.  It was for the story.  I could regale my wonderful friends with the epic tale.  They would all laugh and shake their heads at me.  I would tell it at weddings and funerals and special occasions like Easter.

“This sunrise service reminds me of another time I woke up before sunrise but to get a television.  .  .”

“Then as my hand landed on the prize of the television I realized all that work to get out of bed was worth it.  .  .just like our dear, deceased Mary is now laying hold of her prize in heaven.”

“Just like I woke up at 5am to get my wife a television, you should keep your marital vows pure by going the extra mile for each other.”

There is no limit to what this story could do.

But 5AM is so early, especially after a day full of eating high calorie foods and watching football littered with Fred Meyer commercials.

So I finally asked my wife, “Is it worth it?”

“We do need a new TV, but we just don’t have $150 to buy one right now,” she replied.

Good.  That was it.  It was settled.  I was not waking up at 5am, even if the story would be epic.

But then my mother-in-law said, “If you get one, I will pay for it.”

Well, now it wasn’t settled.

I mulled it over for a few more hours and well into the night, even after going to bed.  In the end, for no discernible reason, I did not set my alarm.  I woke up around 7:30 when my infant son woke up screaming and my toddler daughter pounced on the bed.  It was a good moment, a wonderful family gathering full of smiles and giggles and my angry wife muttering curses at the three of us as she tried to fall back to sleep.

So can I tell a story about that time I didn’t wake up at 5am to brave the cruel crowds and cold rain to buy a television?

I don’t know where, but there has to be a sermon in there somewhere.