In an ongoing attempt to make the day after Thanksgiving also recognized as Bless Friday instead of Black Friday – the biggest shopping day of the year – churches are setting aside November 25th to honor Jesus Christ through service projects that will bless both the givers and receivers … far more than any bargain gift from a retailer can do.
Bless Friday, which began back in 2010, is being observed this year by churches in Texas and Washington state, where families and individuals are encouraged to come together and celebrate Bless Friday as an alternative to Black Friday. It is geared to put the focus of Americans’ giving back on Jesus’ love – rather than tangible store-bought gifts.
No sales … just blessings …
Setting up a Bless Friday ministry this year for members of Trinity Church of God to prepare and deliver comfort baskets for the elderly at the small eastern Texas town of 2,700, pastor Mike Black and his wife Debbie believe that their alternative celebration will start the Christmas season with a spirit of blessing others with acts of kindness that will leave lasting impressions with the stamp of Christ’s love.
"We want to begin our Christmas celebration by serving others just as Jesus did,” the Blacks shared. “Placing the focus on Jesus at the beginning of Christmas transforms how we experience the whole season."
In Houston, Texas, where the Bless Friday movement was founded six years ago, church members are getting ready to bring love and joy to the physically afflicted this Friday.
“Houston area churches' efforts will include blessing a local medical clinic ministry, Casa el Buen Samaritano, by supporting its annual Christmas tradition of delivering cookies to patients and their families,” Bless Friday’s news release announced.
Bless Friday Founder Chuck Fox sees his movement serving as an alternative Black Friday this year as a way to help usher in hope and healing to a nation that has become deeply divided in the wake of very contentious presidential election.
"At a time when fault lines in our country have been exposed, Christians across the political spectrum are uniting in Christ by serving our communities,” Fox informed. “You don't have to be a member of these churches to participate. Just pick an activity that honors Christ, gather together your family and friends, and start your Christmas celebration with service."
He says that he started Bless Friday several years ago to change the way Americans celebrate Christmas – for the better.
Blessing in multiple ways
Other ways churches in and around Houston will bless the less fortunate during Bless Friday include the sending of congregants to provide for the needs of residents at The Beacon homeless shelter – a ministry that was established by Christ Church Cathedral.
Church members living around Texas’ largest city will also be providing crafts and Christmas decorations at Vita-Living homes, which care for the intellectually challenged.
Moving to the outdoors, as well, Christians from local Houston churches will serve the community by cleaning up parks and public spaces. They will also take to the streets by walking door-to-door to spread God’s love and pass out produce in an economically challenged community.
Bless Friday also utilizes the services of those who are more disposed to contribute through at-home activities, which include packing rice and beans for the Fuentes Food Pantry and making no-sew pillows for the Seafarer’s Mission at the Port of Houston.
To the Northwest in Seattle, Washington, parishioners from the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church will serve the homeless by donating their time at the St. Vincent de Paul food bank.
Some of the churches participating in this year’s annual event in the Houston area include Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, St. Francis Episcopal Church, the West University Baptist Church, Crosspoint Church and the Beacon of Light Christian Center.
Fox stresses that during Bless Friday, Christians from all backgrounds unite by serving Christ -- regardless of their denomination.