She stands in the store at Christmas time. She feels so tiny and alone in this big store with its loud music, its bright lights, its stockings and its Santas. Red, white, green, gold, silver – the colours of the season are everywhere. The shelves are such a mess from shoppers picking through to find just the right item. There is hardly room for the shopping carts to get down each aisle because of the crowds. She is packed in tight – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The anxiety begins. There is not much time between its beginning and its climax. She hasn’t felt this way in a long time. Her heart starts racing, her mind goes blank, her body starts to ache and almost immediately she needs to flee this place. She needs to regroup, get a handle on her emotions, pray.
She manages to purchase the two items in her cart. That’s as far as she’d gotten. Two items into the list and she runs.
She feels so defeated and she starts to pray as soon as she steps out of the store.
That’s it? That’s all I can get done today? My list was HUGE and I need to get through it! I can’t put anything else on my husband who is maxed out at this time of year. God help me. I can’t do Christmas like this anymore. I can’t do this busyness, this consumerism, this craziness that has become Your Son’s birthday. Show me your peace, show me your grace, show me YOU. I need YOU to be in my Christmas. I need my sons to know YOU more this week. How do I do this? Show me what YOU want Christmas to be in our family and help me to let go of what it’s always been before. Please help me get through this Christmas – honouring YOU as best I can with what I’ve learned and the ideas I have for this year. Take me closer and closer to what You have for us at Christmas. Help me to get through this list. Come shopping with me today. Be with me today. Show me more of Yourself today. I don’t see you anywhere in the stores. I miss you in all this craziness.
She turns on the radio to the local Christian station. They play nothing but Christmas songs at this time of year. She hopes for something that will help her get through the many tasks ahead.
She hears Joseph’s Lullaby and the tears come, right there in the parking lot, and her heart breaks for the vast difference that exists between that first Christmas and the Christmas of 2010. She knows the baby didn’t come for this. But the people He came for surround her still and she thanks God for reaching down through time and space to touch her tiny heart and show her He even cares about Christmas lists and shopping, because He cares about the people who are making the lists and doing the shopping. He reassures her that He will go with her today, that He will show her more of Him – always, whenever she asks, without hesitation, for that is the true reason for Christmas in the first place.
Though there are not much left of nativities and baby Jesus in the stores she visits, God shows Himself to her in the most unlikely places.
A conversation with a stranger in the washroom – a lady is drinking cup after cup of water and asks if she’s ever had an ultrasound and she answers Yes, a few actually. And the lady wonders how much water she has to drink and how she’ll get through the exam. She tells her it’s not too bad, and she realizes babies are born every second in this world, and hope lies in each one, just as the Hope of the World was born over two thousand years ago.
Kindness from a stranger as they try and wrestle apart the last three carts available in the store, and the stranger tells her more carts are found and we are back in business. And she knows that God even cares about helping her get through the list that was meant to bless and not to spoil, and she thinks of the gifts of the Magi and the original intentions of Saint Nicholas and how gifts do have a place in Christmas.
Not many Christmas carols play in the store, but instead she hears one of her old favourites from years gone by, and she feels without a doubt that God played that one just for her, and that He is found in the most unlikely places, not just in the “christian”, and the baby was born in the most unlikely place – a stable.
She leaves the store victorious – God is still everywhere, He still shows Himself to her whenever she takes the time to ask and look, and He is definitely alive and well in this Christmas season, just as in every other season.
So Merry Christmas to you all in this year of our Lord 2010!