Most of us have relatives or friends who really dive into the “Black Friday” experience following Thanksgiving.

This year’s “event” began even earlier, during the evening of Thanksgiving. I spoke to a group who went out after the family dinner and didn’t return home until well after midnight. An energetic group of shoppers!

I know another group who plan carefully for this event. They research sales, store hours, items to purchase, and when they are on sale.

This group creates a schedule with planned arrival times, when the store opens or the time when the price of the item to purchase is marked down.

The group then proceeds to the department where the next item they want is on sale. The item is purchased. Then they proceed to the next department or store. The time is spent that way. The group returns home exhausted but with “lots of stuff.”

I recall my first naïve experience of Black Friday as a priest a good number of years ago. My niece wanted a certain DVD on sale Black Friday morning. I thought I would swing by the store to pick up the DVD before Mass.

I was a bit surprised at the full parking lot. I was even more surprised at the number of people in the store. I was astonished that the checkout lines extended to the rear of the store. I knew I’d never make it back in time for Mass so I was going to give up the purchase until I met a parish member in one of the checkout lines who volunteered to make the purchase for me.

I gave her the DVD, the coupon and the money and picked up the item from her the following week. Best Black Friday I have experienced! Actually, the only Black Friday I have experienced.

It never ceases to amaze me how we plan and prepare for these “secular events” yet fail to give even a fraction of that time in planning and preparing our response as disciples to the Gospel message of Jesus. The focus and time we spend should not overshadow the real “reason for the season.”

The spiritual preparation we do during Advent in preparation for Christmas is often half-hearted at best. The decorations, Christmas cards, lights, baking and gift purchasing should be directed to helping ourselves and others understand the real reason for Advent: preparation for the coming of Christ and seeing his presence even here and now.

Every card should reflect a prayer in its greeting or by the writer as the card is signed or addressed. As lights are hung, the reminder of Christ as the true light of the world should be in our thoughts. The bottom line: Until our full hearts reflect God’s love and the true gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ, the glitz and glimmer will be merely superficial and nothing else.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has great resources on its website that help focus our attention. Check out the Advent calendar on this site: It offers some real and practical ideas to keep us aware every day.

Our personal lives of prayer and the time we take in private reflection direct us to the real significance of Advent. With this new liturgical year, let’s try to begin the spiritual planning necessary to make this season more than shallow decorations.