Travel with me, Blessed Reader, on a brief shopping excursion. The early November afternoon is an unseasonably warm 85 degrees. Many people are out and about, the usual roadways congested, though not unmanageable. On one of these roadways, an area is fenced off. An edge of fence sports a sign which reads: “Buy Christmas Trees Here.”

At Office Max, the air conditioning runs full blast. I scan the aisle signs and immediately notice several displays for 2016 calendars and planners, though my search for plain writing paper takes some work. Then I hear the strains of Bing Crosby singing, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” I cannot hide my disgust and flee, even as a young salesman asks whether he can help me find something.

In Michaels, the smell of bayberry and spice is so strong I can barely breathe. Aisles overflow with an abundance of Christmas items in gold, silver, red, green and white. Bows, wrapping paper, boxes, wreathes, lights, garland, and glitter cascade from shelves. A man searching for child’s art supplies appears dazed and confused. As I seek writing paper, a young mother with two small children asks a salesclerk where she might find a lit nativity set for her front lawn.

Now, the salesclerk appears confused. She furrows her brow at the mother and me. I realize the mother doesn’t speak English well and tell the clerk that this customer means the manger scene with the animals, angel, wise men, Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. The mother nods ardently, smiling as I explain. Even if she can’t communicate it, she and I understand one another. The salesclerk calls someone for clarification, which reveals that this Michaels carries no such item. The woman smiles again at me, thanks us both, and leaves with her children. I follow closely behind, as I discover this Michaels doesn’t carry what I seek either.

Then, I take my tote bags and a shopping cart into Trader Joe’s, where I see a large, ornately decorated black board which reads, “The Turkeys are Coming.” I breathe a sigh of relief, appreciating the store’s sense of timing. Along a front wall sits a display of cornbread stuffing mix. An adjacent stand displays Advent calendars. I see it and smile. As a pastor, I preach on Advent, the Season of Preparation which heralds in the 12 days of Christmas, traditionally ending in early January with Epiphany. At the check-out line, the young mother and I recognize each another. She nods and smiles once more as we each pay for our groceries. Neither of us has any Thanksgiving items – yet.

It’s no wonder so many people not only dread the holidays, but also are too weary to enjoy them. The holidays, however we define and celebrate them, often become just one more thing to check off our To-Do lists. So, we hurry through the experience and miss the fun of a slow, deliberate, faithful journey which leads from one season to the next, one delightful holiday season at a time.

© 2015 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.

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