I went to a major retailer in the area to pick up some milk the day before Thanksgiving. As I made a beeline for the dairy department, I noticed a group of women who walked around in circles occasionally talking to themselves or one another…I couldn’t help but wonder if they were practicing a new dance, if they only turned left when they walked, or if they were planning a mission impossible. I covertly stepped into an adjoining aisle to stake out the situation. After just a couple minutes I knew what they were doing. And while I thought what they were doing might actually be helpful, I confess I also thought they were bordering on the obsessive. They were planning their strategy for what they would do at the beginning of Black Friday shopping. They were planning the hunt to make sure they bagged their retail prey the next day. They knew they would be up against fierce opposition and they were going to make sure they were in the best position possible to bring home the prize.
I will confess I love retail therapy and I can do it as well as the next person. But I have never seen so much time and energy going into buying a thermal sweater. Boots, handbags, Christmas pajamas, and new Bluetooth headphones were obviously on their lists as I tracked their strategy meeting throughout the store. I came to the store for milk and left with an appreciation for how people fill their time during the holidays.
This made me reflect that I might not be so different from them. What random, unique, seemingly-unavoidable activities suck the time and energy out of my calendar and then, out of me? We all know that during the busyness of the Christmas season, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of travel, volunteering at the food pantry or ringing a bell for those in need, and worrying about which presents to buy for family members. For others of us, finances are tight and we strain ourselves the extra amount to make ends meet; family relationships are fractured and we have to navigate difficult choices. While I love cooking the turkey and making the cookies, the planning, shopping, serving and clean-up can sometimes feel like I’m crumbling just like the cookie I took out of the oven too early. The season brings much joy but much stress at the same time. Let’s be honest, the song I’m really singing on Sunday morning could sound more like this:
Joy and stress to the World, yes, my Lord has come. Let earth receive her King (and the gift I just bought you). The glory of Buying the right Gift. Let Heaven and Nature Sing….while I try to get everything done and figured out.
Make up your own hymn with contrasting realities – excitement and worry. Good memories and Nightmares. Christmas brings such a multifaceted array of emotions that sometimes it’s hard to navigate through these emotions and focus on the meaning of the season.
Pause with me and reflect. Isn’t it true that we can SAY “I put Jesus first” but how often have I spoken platitudes to that effect all day long, but what’s really going on internally is much more raw and disappointing than that. I am thankful for my precious strategic shoppers who recently reminded me that there is so much more for me to fix my mind and heart upon during Christmas time than the worry and stress of the current calendar and circumstances.
Oswald Chambers in “My Utmost for His Highest” states nicely that “we are never free from the recurring tides of the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in.” Like a flood these distractions will always seek to pull us away from time with our Savior. We shouldn’t be surprised that Christmas comes with life-distractions that will sneak in from every angle during the season to take our hearts and minds off of Christ. We have the greatest opportunity to focus on our Savior all the more during this season. I just need to grab onto this opportunity with both hands and I can’t do that without acknowledging the problem and then reminding myself of the amazing solution that awaits my attention. My current problem has a remedy that was spoken over 2000 years ago.
Jesus teaches us, “If God so beautifully clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:30-33)
But now – I suggest to you this same passage seen through the eyes of the author of The Message, “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”
Dear reader, when the much more of the season’s busyness tries to push out the much more of our Savior, let’s aim to praise Him and remember Him amidst our circumstances. Will you join me in striving to seek first His Kingdom, push away the worry and the stress, and dwell on the much more that He only can give? Blessings to you dear Reader – I wish for you Much More of Jesus during this blessed season.
Always His and yours – Elizabeth