Saturday mornings are sacred for me and Caleb. After sleeping in, the two of us will typically head to the mall together. The Shops at Willowbend is our favorite. It was built to cater to the uber-wealthy but that class of people dwindled considerably by the time it opened. As a result, it’s always been a bit quieter than the others. We normally arrive around 10AM, just as the shops are opening. After a quick stroll around the first floor, we head straight to the play area where he runs wild, breaking every few minutes to come and hug me. He climbs around and I cheer him on.
As the play area begins to get crowded, we move on to the fountains where he watches them and runs around outside Neiman Marcus. Eventually, he just starts running full steam from one end of the building to the next while I leisurely push the stroller next to him. We end our morning with lunch at the Chick-fil-a and some milk in the car on our way home.
But as Caleb and I showed up on Saturday, we were shocked to find the mall packed. It was wall-to-wall people. The play area looked like a riot waiting to happen and it was far too busy for Caleb to run around. By the time we made it to the main concourse, we found the spoiler of our plans. It was Santa!
That’s right. It’s only the second weekend of November and Santa is already taking orders from children and smiling for the camera. The second worst Christmas song in history (“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart..”) is playing over the loudspeaker and all of the children are dressed as if it’s 10 degrees outside…in Texas. The line to see him was easily over an hour wait.
Rushing into Christmas
It’s not like we couldn’t have seen this coming. At the rate department stores are going, I’m sure we will be buying Christmas presents in May within the next decade. Our neighbors had their Christmas lights professionally installed Saturday morning. We’re already seeing Santa picking out his favorite luxury cars on TV. (Apparently, he likes driving a Lincoln over a Lexus. However, another commercial has him eyeing his favorite Mercedes Benz.)
To be honest, it doesn’t bother me that we are so excited about Christmas that we want to begin earlier. While I still think we shouldn’t be going into full-throttle Christmas until after celebrating Thanksgiving, I do get it. If the motives are right, it’s completely understandable. However, I believe there is a danger that comes with it too.
Let’s face it. Christmas is anything but calm. Holly and I barely breathe in December. Between all the Christmas parties, buying presents, making sure we get to see both families, and end-of-year work projects, it can be downright stressful. And in all the hustle and bustle, we forget why we’re even doing all of it. Sometimes I think that if Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, we’re all inside having the party without realizing we left the birthday boy in the car. Jesus becomes an afterthought. Our only moment to stop and worship him often comes in the 45-minute Christmas Eve service before the big family dinner that we’re already distracted by.
So here is my challenge: If you’re finding that Christmas is coming at you like a freight train, take some time now to prepare your heart. Deep underneath all of the presents, travel, family, and parties is a sacred celebration of our Savior entering the land of darkness to fight the ultimate battle for us. It was a moment in which kings bowed before God in the flesh. They named him Emmanuel, literally meaning “God is with us.” The governor of the land began systematically killing baby boys to try and stop it. It was our spiritual D-Day – the final invasion of light into darkness to defeat the evil one who once held us captive. He wasn’t merely a child…he was and is the child.
So as you begin decorating the house with lights and ornaments, take time to think about why you’re doing it. Meditate on the prophesy in Isaiah 9 and what it says about Christ and his resurrection. As you listen to those Christmas carols, listen for the angst and hope that drips from every lyric and note. As you stare at the nativity scene, take time to focus on the faith Mary and Joseph displayed. Spend some time each night reading about the hope and expectation everyone felt. Our souls are alive today because he came, died, and rose again. Don’t let another Christmas go to waste by forgetting about the birthday boy.
Sing noel, Sing Hallelujah
God in us, Now come to dwell
Sing noel, Lift high His praises
Christ our Emmanuel
Christ our Emmanuel
Lift up your heads
All, Who wander in darkness
Shine, For your light has come
Down through the ages, Though sins battle rages
Christ, The Messiah has won
-Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah