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I was troubled yesterday when I went to the grocery store after my after-church nap.

 

First of all, I'm not much of a shopper.  I'm kind of the anti-girl when it comes to shopping, I've been told.  My husband likes that about me.  In fact, I find that about the only places that I'll dally are in the hardware store and the office supply store.  But I really REALLY don't like grocery shopping (which is odd, because I really like to cook).  And since I don't like grocery shopping, I go as infrequently as possible, which means I'm stuck there for more time, pushing a heavy cart and juggling coupons and grocery lists and in-store sales circulars.


Now, while I'm about this whining, let me also add this: who in the marketing world decided it would be a good idea to fill every square foot of aisle and common area space in stores with "end caps" and inter-aisle displays??  This drives me nuts! It makes maneuvering a shopping cart or lumber cart around the store a real pain.  Traffic bottle necks like it does on a single-lane bridge as everyone waits his turn to pass through the three-foot-wide opening in an otherwise 12-foot-wide aisle!  Argh!  And don't even get me started on how difficult it makes shopping for our friends who must use wheelchairs or scooters to get around.

 

So, I headed out to the grocery store yesterday under much duress.  See, I've learned that for the anti-shopper like me, shopping weekends is a big no-no.  The crowds are bigger, the selection is smaller, the check-out lines longer, and my patience shorter.  But my husband had offered to cook dinner, so I braved the Sunday afternoon grocery store fiasco all for the sake of a tastily-grilled dinner.

 

I grabbed a cart from the parking lot (since there are usually more carts in the lot than in the store on the weekends) and walked into the grocery store... the GROCERY store... and barely squeaked into the door with the cart when I ran into the first major aisle-blocker.  Now, the aisle-blocking was bad enough.  But it was the content of the display that troubled me.  It contained Christmas decorations.  Christmas decorations ... at the grocery store ... in September!

 

Yes, I agree that the merging of grocery stores and drug stores was a good idea.  I like being able to fill my prescription while I'm shopping and to buy toilet paper and laundry detergent at the same place I buy apples and bread.  It makes for a more convenient, somewhat less-hassled shopping experience.  But why, too, do I need to find nativity scenes mixed among Advent wreaths sharing an aisle-blocker with Frosty and Santa at my local grocer?  And why in September?

 

Has Christmas become that commonplace?  Have we become that blasť to want a one-stop shopping experience for even our matters of faith?  Let's see, I need to pick up milk, bread, toilet paper, a little reminder of faith, and dish soap.  Great, now Christmas is complete!

 

We have a long-standing memory in our family of a really difficult time.  Dad was tasked with the unwelcome responsibility of taking our beloved dog Muffin to the vet to be euthanized.  She was in pain, her life expectancy was not good, and there was nothing that could be done for her.  Dad agonized over this responsibility, and the long-standing story is that he made a list of things to do over the weekend that went something like this:  mow the lawn, pick up dry cleaning, kill the dog, wash car, take Dave to soccer practice.  By making light of a rather difficult situation, Dad was able to get through his weekend's tasks, marking off one at a time.

 

So I wonder, is this where we are with Christmas?  Has it become just another item on our to-do list?  Is it that we don't want to feel it, to experience it, so we relegate it to a simple task list?  Is this another case of the marketplace creating the holiday... one that has become all about the commercial aspects of buying the perfect gifts and having the most-festively decorated home with the grandest of light displays and yard art? 

 

How can we stop the madness?  Well, short of avoiding the grocery store (I actually like that idea) or intentionally ramming our carts into the displays (probably not the best of ideas), what can we do to claim Christmas back from the marketplace?

 

One of my former pastors used to open every month's church leadership meetings with the singing of a hymn . . . and it was always a Christmas hymn, no matter the month.  He wanted to reclaim the story of Christmas as told through our songs, and reclaim it as a story that needed to be heard year-round.

 

Mostly, I think we need to rethink Christmas in terms of our modern conveniences.  Christmas was about the utmost in selflessness.  God giving to the world his only child so that we might be saved from our wretchedness.  Mary carrying, giving birth (in a barn!) and raising a child that she knew was destined to greatness, all for the sake of others.  Joseph setting aside his pride and concern, subjecting himself to public ridicule, and raising Jesus as his own son even though he knew the child was not conceived of him, all to support the honor of his bride-elect.

 

In this world of modern conveniences, I fear we have forgotten what has gone before us.  We expect our life experiences to be easy ones.  Our grocery stores have virtually everything we ever think we could need.  Our churches have tailor-made services to preach just what we want to hear.  Our schools aim to teach our students just those things needed to pass a standardized test.  And when things don't go as planned, when we become inconvenienced, we shout out as to how we've been wronged, and how it's someone else's responsibility to fix it.  It has become all about us and what's in it for us.

 

Let's take back Christmas from the marketplace.  Let's focus on the selflessness of the Season.  Let's try and get over ourselves.

 

Grace and peace to you as you journey.

Yours in Christ,  

~~Jennifer

9/25/06

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