by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Even though my bank account is the smallest it’s been in a few years, I’ve never been as excited for Black Friday as I am this year.

It was actually only about five years ago when my daughter and I began our Black Friday tradition. Up until that time, I used to avoid the biggest shopping day of the year. But after having so much fun on our first Black Friday outing, we vowed to do it each year.

Maybe it depends on where you choose to shop on that day that makes the difference. I know the shopping mall where we go on the Friday following Thanksgiving is filled with festive decorations, Christmas music, happy faces and good will among holiday shoppers. The aura and atmosphere of the day is so enticing and captivating, I now never want to miss it!

Of course, the joy we experience could also have something to do with our own attitude and approach to the day.

Black Friday is the only shopping day of the year when we’re not on a tight schedule — other than getting to the mall before it opens. There is no other place we need to be that day, so we’re in no hurry. There is no rushing around or frantic searching. We take our time as we shop for the loved ones on our list.

Although we may have less money to spend this year, our spirits are not dampened and our anticipation is not lessened. In fact, we’ve been having fun trying to imagine and determine what we can buy with our smaller budget.

We’ve all probably heard the expression, “It’s not the gift, but the thought that counts.” Giving a gift need not be a stressful or expensive gesture. Regardless of my budget, I’ve found it helpful to let my heart and not my pocketbook guide my search for the perfect gift. In other words, a little creativity and thought-filled consideration of the people on your list can lead you to find the most meaningful (and affordable) gifts.

I read an interesting fictional article recently about gift giving. It described a woman who had sacrificed and saved all year as she planned for the Christmas gifts she wanted to give to her loved ones. Then it told of her sadness when some of them told her they couldn’t afford to give gifts that year. It wasn’t that she was sad to not get gifts from them, but they were trying to discourage her own giving, not knowing she had already bought and wrapped their gifts. The article also pointed out that these particular loved ones had spent so much money on themselves all year long that they didn’t have any extra money left for buying gifts for others.

Fortunately, this woman recovered from her sadness and didn’t let anyone take away her joy of self-sacrifice that enabled her to give gifts.

I loved being reminded of the joy of self-sacrifice. I recalled reading an article by the founder of my college several years ago that addressed this topic. This article illustrated how often an unselfish parent raises the most selfish children. It explained how selfishness can be a result of parents robbing their children from learning the joy that comes from genuine self-sacrifice — giving up for the sake of another, putting another’s needs or interests before their own. But isn’t this type of giving an example of true love — a reflection of the Christ spirit that the life of Jesus exemplified?

The holiday season always brings to mind one of the first Scriptures I learned as a child: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Somehow this verse is speaking to me in a fresh way as I prepare for my Black Friday shopping!

Imagine a day filled with pondering how much we love the people on our Christmas list. Imagine the desire to give whatever we can to them — and whatever we can give is enough. But still — we give.

I’m not putting a price tag on giving, my friends. My most memorable gifts are not the kind bought in a store — such as the gift that is homemade and the gift of someone’s time and attention.

But may all of our gifts show how much we love — whether it’s the gifts we buy on Black Friday or the gifts we give all year long.