Black Friday seems to start earlier every year, leaving people little time to enjoy what Thanksgiving is actually supposed to represent. The sales and promises of bounty may be hard to resist, but I like to offer these creative alternatives to your shopping agenda.
Skip Walmart and the malls and spend your day at one or more of these 7 spiritual alternatives:
1. A forest.
If you have access to wilderness, let yourself unplug for a hike or a meditation surrounded by the natural world. If you're in an urban setting, get yourself to a park and watch the squirrels and birds going about their merry business, completely indifferent to Christmas sales.
2. A museum.
Museums contain worlds of creativity and beauty to explore, and many stay open the day after Thanksgiving. Why look at toasters and electric razors when you could peer into the magical kingdoms of Picasso, Dalí or whatever artist you feel moved by?
3. A place to pray.
Your local church, mosque, temple or synagogue can offer infinitely more nourishment than Walmart or Target can. Light a candle for someone you love. Soak up the calm and stillness. Meditate on the things you're grateful for that can't be bought with money.
4. A friend's house.
Community is at the heart of so many spiritual traditions, and there is no better way to tap into that than by visiting a friend, family member or significant other. Spend time with the ones you love instead of worrying about what to buy them for the holidays.
5. A music performance.
Stevie Wonder once sang: "Music is a world within itself/With a language we all understand." Immerse yourself in the captivating world of music -- let it bring you closer to those around you and closer to the core of your being that doesn't really care about half-off sales. On Sunday, I will take my friend Penny to listen to her favorite Christmas music, “The Nutcracker.”
6. Your imagination.
How often do you exercise the power of your imagination? When is the last time you picked up a paintbrush, performed a skit or wrote a short story? There are infinite corners of your own imagination to explore and not a minute to lose.
7. An Advent Penance Service with Absolution
You read this correctly, what a grand opportunity to sit in silence with the Lord and a community of humble people and be invited down the aisle to receive a wonderful gift, God's mercy and peace. You can go on feeling guilty that you have not received this sacrament in decades, so why not skip the excuses and come to Holy Family this Sunday at the 10am Mass and receive an early Advent gift. God’s love for you will be wrapped with hands around your cheeks and and a tender voice that will say: "I miss you and love you very much." Please join us this Sunday.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who have suffered many pains and sorrows during the past year. They might have lost their health, a job, a relationship, respect, but let them know that they can never lose Your LOVE for them. Come and celebrate God’s love for you in this memorable celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It will be the best gift you have ever received during the Advent Season.