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Okay . . .  I am opening with a disclaimer!  Please understand, I am all for supporting the economy and I do not envy what it takes to keep a business afloat in these tough times. However, I invite you and your family to join me in asking a tough question about the society in which we live. How can we “keep Christmas” in such a way that honors the Way of Christ?

Yesterday our town shared our annual Christmas parade. Each year High School bands and beautiful floats have been crowded off Main Street by businesses using this opportunity to parade their wares.  This year a shiny fleet of cars from a local dealer glided by, complete with their own beauty queen. I kid you not!  The person standing next to me caught my rolling eyes and said, “Can you believe this?  There oughtta be a law against this kind of advertising! We always had great marching bands when we were young.”

Lately, I have been listening to words used in advertising and there is a new precedent.  The marketers have simply re-drawn the lines.  We can all now get a head start on Black Friday shopping:

“60% off One Item – Black Friday Starts Early!”

“Door busters? Why bust down the door, when you can shop early, (i.e. Thanksgiving Day)?”

So we won’t all be pulling a chair up to the table if we are working or shopping will we?   When we will give our consumption a rest?   Betsy Taylor founder and president of the New American Dream gets some insightful answers from children when she asked them, “what do you want they money can’t buy?”:

Money Can’t Buy . . .

“Rain.”

“A mud puddle to jump in.”

“the animals to be safe.”

“a clean park.”

“Friends, Fun, Good Times.”

“a smile.”

“… no more shootings and killings, just peace.”

“A Warm Sunny Day.”

“Money Can’t Buy ME”

Another kind of parade band, the funeral band, followed by the congregation, just walked by my office in Old Salem.  What a contrast!  But interestingly, the music was still bright. And the Christ’s offer of abundant life, of light in our darkness is a love that is matchless.   So as you gather around the table during Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas you might pose this same question.  To the question, ‘What do you want that money can’t buy  Elisa, aged 14, answers: “I want peace, a quietness for my soul.  An ease for my thoughts and a rest for my heart . . . I want faith.  To possess the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.”   Good tidings to you and your dear ones!

-The Rev. Lisa Mullen is the Director of Children and Family Ministries, Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province.

There are many different kinds of prayers.  One is intercession, where we ask God for help on behalf of others.  Another is adoration or praise where we simply adore our crucified and risen Savior.  Thanksgiving, confession and prayers of petition are also forms of our response to God.  We all pray prayers of petition or “asking  prayers,” under our breath, when we are burdened by pain or grief or when we are “knocking on the door”  with the hope that our Lord will answer the door, that is answer our  heartfelt or anxious prayers.  I have often wondered about the close connection to petition and nagging.  

With children they call it the “nag factor.” You know… when children won’t take “No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No!” for an answer?  Fact is, our marketing culture intentionally schools our children in the art of asking.  Advertisers, in order to sell the product, will associate or “bond” their wares with the identity and soul of our child or teen.  Media critic Douglas Rushkoff speaks of the invasive, sustained, coercive strategies advertisers use.  He notes that the use of brain science to sell to kids is called “neuromarketing.” Marketers do not even attempt to hide their strategies.  Perhaps you have heard them from the den, talking—directly–to your children . . .  inviting your children to share this great idea (of something they “need) with mom or dad!  Barbara A. Martino, advertising executive, shares her company’s strategy: “We’re relying on the kid to pester the mom to buy the product, rather than going straight to the mom.” 

One way we can guard our children is to learn more about the strategies advertisers use with our kids.  Listen to Betsy Taylor, executive director of the Center for a New American Dream. She says, “Parents and their kids are behind the eight ball.  As a result of unprecedented levels of advertising and marketing aimed at kids, our children feel intense pressure to try to bolster their sense of self-esteem at the mall, and they will go to incredible lengths to get their parents to give in.”

There are a lot of ways to respond within our faith community, not the least of which has everything to do with helping our children and ourselves  embrace our baptismal identity and so remember  whose we are and to whom we belong.

Of course, there is another very powerful antidote to this consuming society in which we live.  Remember reading labels on household cleaning products when your children were very young?  Activated charcoal, we are told, is what we need to have on hand, just in case our toddler gets hold of something toxic and swallows it in the thirty seconds we turn our backs.  Activated charcoal bonds with the toxic chemical and limits its absorption into our bloodstream. 

That antidote to our greedy, self-centered, consuming culture is simply. . . gratitude.  According to Henri Nouwen, “thanksgiving is one of the most important celebrations of our lives, because without it almost everything loses its orbit.”  We do not need to exchange expensive gifts, we need only be thankful. 

May you enjoy and give thanks for all that is precious in your life, for all whom you treasure this Thanksgiving!

-The Rev. Lisa Mullen is the Director of Children and Family Ministries, Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province.



Recognizing the home as a community of faith, Roots & Wings provides avenues for families to discover and develop their spiritual roots and wings in today’s world. Roots & Wings celebrates and enriches family connectedness within the Moravian Church community.

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