For the past 2 years I had the honor and the torture of working retail. I've seen people act more crazy than I thought was possible. I've been yelled at, sneered at and also, treated as a savior when helping people find gifts during this time. It is remarkable how close I was to just wanting to boycott Christmas altogether the last few years when thinking about Christmas being associated with the person who just walked away from me, having been so degraded simply because something was out of stock, which is totally out of my control.
And I literally almost cried when I found out that said retail store was opening at 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving day this year. I can't describe how sick this is. You see, when a store opens at this time, this means that most likely the people who unload and stock shelves will be there all night (we already were last year when we opened at 10pm) But then the people who have to set up all of the Black Friday (though now it's THURSDAY!) displays will most likely be working all of Thanksgiving day. So...no Thanksgiving for them. For me, this is a tragedy for Americans. We are teaching the next generation to devalue this day and the purpose of it. We are teaching them to replace being Thankful for all of the MANY blessings we've been given as a nation with consumerism, chaos, discontentment and displeasure. I've worked retail one Black Friday and it is literally the craziest thing I've ever encountered...and I've seen crazy things overseas.
Something is broken in our society. We are no longer teaching future generations the values of kindness, gentleness, thankfulness, patience, responsibility, etc. Sure, you might be within your home...but not society at-large. I don't mean to guilt anyone who goes out on Black Friday...that's not my intent. There are good deals. But think about what you're buying into, and think about how much you are encouraging these stores to just eat more and more into Thanksgiving. As I think about all of my co-workers who are still working retail, I just get sad. Sad that they will not have a Thanksgiving; many of them working just to get by and make ends meet for their families. More and more people are not getting holidays off simply to feed our consumeristic wants.
So, Christmas. I guess somewhere last year in the midnight shifts of retail I started losing the magic that Christmas brings. The wonder and the joy, the passion and the hope. Last year there were no decorations until December 8th. No presents bought, and no peppermint mochas until December 16th. I love giving gifts. I love dreaming about what I can do to bring someone joy and yet, I struggled last year just to get myself to a store. I guess this year I've just started to be determined to experience all that I know that God has for me in this very precious season. I don't want to miss the seemingly ordinary moments of beauty that He has set aside. I refuse to get caught up in all that Christmas shouldn't be (the consumerism) and to focus in on the preciousness of what it is. A time to slow down, to celebrate deeply, to richly experience the preciousness of the gift that Jesus is to us.
When you think back to the birth of Christ...it was seemingly normal. He was born in a stable surrounded by animals to a probably poor family who was certainly disgraced because of Mary being pregnant outside of wedlock. Shepherds came. It was normal, if not a little pathetic. And yet, it was in this event that the very Savior of the world came to be with us. It was the most profoundly 'normal' moment that ever was.
Let's not miss any 'seemingly normal' moments in this Christmas season. Let's work to prepare our hearts for however He would want to encounter us in this time. Of course we work to do that in all seasons; but especially in this season let's take some time to just reflect on what it's about apart from the consumerism, apart from the business. Let's celebrate life. Not just His, but our own. If you have kids, take time to marvel in their little (or grown up) lives. If you have a job take the time to be thankful for what that's adding to your life. Let's not miss anything in this season...allowing ourselves to celebrate down to the last strand of tacky tinsel.
That's why my Christmas decorations are up. I'm working to rediscover the wonder, the joy and the delight we ought to feel as God's kids. I'm trying to slow down and to allow myself to be encountered by the reality that I am thankful for every seemingly normal and mundane moment. I'm thankful for my family, for the life I get to live. I'm thankful that I get to encounter Christ every day. I'm thankful for Christmas, and the rediscovering of it's beauty.
So as I sit drinking coffee, listening to Christmas music, staring out into the California "cold" I'm praying that this would be the most blessed Christmas season of your life. I pray that you would rediscover the wonder and the joy. The hope and the passion. I pray that you would be overwhelmed by God's goodness in every moment. And that you would truly be able to encounter His presence in the 'seemingly ordinary.'