Do you like Christmas shopping? How much can you afford to spend? How much are you going to spend? How many gifts will you buy more out of obligation than desire? For many, just putting a list of possibilities together is a hurdle. Some dear souls on your list really don’t “need” anything”. Would you feel right, however, not getting them something? There are those you would buy the moon for, but who can afford the moon? Perhaps money or need isn’t a problem. The problem may be to know what to buy; the size, style, and color. Of course, there usually are a few items specific in nature that you have no idea where to buy. Trying to know what to buy those closest to you is not easy. Ask for a list, beg for a list, and pester for a list; even demanding a list and setting a deadline is futile. Shopping begins with a list, but getting a list may be the biggest hurdle.
It is easy to think when you have possibilities and certainties that you are almost home. Unfortunately, evenings and weekends after Black Friday are heavy traffic times. Everyone is on a mission it seems. This many people do not live in my community or in my neighborhood! Why don’t they shop in their own places? Paranoia can flirt with your mind. They are intentionally trying to sour my life. Go away! Back to your evil den! Restore my sanity and peace, please. Parking this far away, my legs will give way or I’ll die of hunger before I even get inside.
So you’ve survived the trek through the parking lot from the north forty. You’ve avoided cars backing out, pulling in, and driving through the crowd of pedestrians. A shopping basket is procured, wiped down for germs, and you officially are part of the indoor herd. Victory is in sight.
It is? Where is what you are looking for from your list? Which isle holds the prize? Did you pass it? Is the store out of your long sought for treasure? Does another store have it? Is there still time to order what you cannot find? Maybe you should buy an alternate gift from their list. What? There is nothing else on their list you want, can afford, or can find? Alas! But wait! They have one left tucked behind another item in the dark recesses of the lower shelf. Success! Now it is time to pay and retreat to the warmth and sanctity of home.
As you turn the corner your knees buckle. Every cash register is open and each register has a line snaking back, away, and blended with all the other backed-up cash registers. You will be old before you obtain the privilege of paying and escaping with your prizes safely in hand. After what seems like days you are next in line with payment in your hand ready to extend to the tired trying to smile cashier, when you see another cashier approaching to switch registers with them and give them a break. No! It’s not the time to close out the register and open it back up. Why could they not have waited just a few more minutes until after you had checked out?
With the pain of shopping an inevitable question is spawned. Why am I doing this? What is worth this frustration? Could it be fear of not getting any presents? What happened to the motivation of giving from gratitude and love? God gave first when He sent Jesus to be born in the manger. I didn’t deserve that gift of freedom from sin, abundant life, and someday—heaven. How can I not give when my heart is overflowing with gratitude? Have I forgotten Christmas is a time to tell the story of God’s love through gift giving and, if necessary, words?
Perhaps it is time to remember the words of Lisa T. Bergen in “The Blessed” when she writes, “I fear he sees God as his instrument in the heavens, rather than himself as God’s instrument on earth”.