Blessed PEACE to cheer you!
I would call it an Advent excursion, as that is what we consider those weeks leading up to Christmas. But that word and concept seems too sacred to be thrown around as a description for what boils down to “getting stuff at the store.” It was all the frenzy that is the inevitable part of preparing for Christmas and every year I find myself wishing it were not so but accepting that it’s all part of the celebration.
At one point, as I slowly scanned the aisles in search of a small dancing Santa (one of my boys wanted this for his Secret Saint at school), I took a deep breath and then exhaled even deeper. In the distance, a tinny speaker piped John Lennon and Yoko Ono into the warehouse and I dragged my feet across the concrete floor now dusted with glitter.
“And so this is Christmas,” I wondered aloud, looking at a sad display of neon-colored trees drenched with silver garland. Since when do they sell purple Christmas trees? What is this all about anyway?
The longer I stayed in the store, the sadder I felt. I was getting dangerously close to the depths of despair and before I resorted to sending up a flare for help I decided to rally, find my wares and get out.
I felt so overwhelmed, so caught up in the materialism and commercialism that is the frightening trend in today’s world. It’s so far from the True Meaning of Christmas and somehow it creeps in every year.
Happily, we don’t have to get bogged down in all of this. This is what I told myself as I marched back to my van that day. I can be surrounded by an ocean of consumerism and not get caught up in it — it’s not easy and it takes work, but when it comes to living in this world, I need to do as John Paul the Great said and Be Not Afraid.
It’s our only option — yes we can hope to change the great big world with our high ideals and happy hearts, but we realize that won’t really be the case. The best we can do is change the little world around us and honestly, we can really only change ourselves.
The place that has to be affected, in a good way, is right here in our heart.
That day, as I worked my way out of the depths of despair, I chose joy. I was patient with the slow-moving shopper ahead of me because that is how I could impact the world around me. I couldn’t stop the production of mass marketed plastic junk (some of which I admit to purchasing that day). But I could still be the hands and feet of Jesus in the midst of it.
Purple plastic trees might be here to stay, along with aisle after aisle of cheap decorations that will be next year’s cast-offs. But I don’t need to be depressed or distressed.
Jesus came into this world, this world filled with sin and sadness, and he brought joy and hope. That is what we celebrate on this blessed day — the birth of a baby who changed the course of history, of your history! Of my history.
“The people who walked in darkness,” says Isaiah of the promised Messiah, “have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.”
And so this is Christmas.
Thank you, Lord, for your overwhelming gift of love, for the light you have brought into a cold, dark world that was hungry for a Savior. Our souls will not rest until they rest in you — what a gift that you have come to save us.