Have you been to the mall yet? I try my best to avoid it. When I find myself herded with strangers between purse displays under signs that say Believe, I have the urge to make mooing noises and say NO I DON’T BELIEVE IN SHOPPING and I’ll be leaving this hell on earth right now, thank you, to a neighborhood shop where I won’t be pulled into the undertow and end up buying tube socks for everybody just to get the presents checked off my list.
I’m a Christmas lover for sure, but I recognize that it’s an invasion into the quasi-sanity of our normal lives. Christmas has a way of taking over, don’t you think? It invades our living rooms, our schedules, our bank accounts, and our radio stations. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s heavenly, and sometimes it just hands out headaches like the sample lady at Costco.
Frederick Buechner has a great take on it. In The Clown in the Belfry, he writes, “‘Advent’ means ‘coming’ of course, and the promise of Advent is that what is coming is an unimaginable invasion.” [See! That’s why I daydream that Frederick Buechner is my literary boyfriend!] “The mythology of our age has to do with flying saucers and invasions from outer space, and that is unimaginable enough. But what is upon us now is even more so- a close encounter not of the third kind but of a different kind altogether. An invasion of holiness. That is what Advent is about.”
So how do we keep our focus on an invasion of holiness, the kind that charges us with electric hope, rather than the commercial version that drains and exhausts us and makes us seek comfort in fudge and eggnog? How do we shepherd our thoughts away from the nagging worries and fearful panic of this world, towards the God who sent part of God’s self off to invade our world in baby skin, and then watched and waited to see how it all would unfold? Who breathed his holiness over the manger scene, as Mary groaned and animals stirred. Who breathes over us still as we groan and stir and love each other, as we do life heroically and terribly and everything in between? How do keep our eyes on the holy and divine while the world goes on with its craziness? Really. How do we do it at the mall?
I asked the children for advice on this tonight at church. As usual, they had some wise things to say:
I made a list for your convenience:
- Try a lot of times to look at the top of the tree. Now, you’ll most likely find an angel there or a star, and either is good because an angel is just a messenger of God, sent to you to bring you peace, and the star is the thing that showed people where to find Jesus. So it’s going to point you to peace or to Jesus. You’re in good shape either way.
- Tell the Christmas story over and over inside your head. Not the Santa and the elves one, no. The Jesus and the shepherds and Mary and Joseph one. Concentrate on the Do Not Be Afraid part. And the Tidings of Great Joy part. Those are two good things to think about.
- Don’t get too much on your brain about Christmas presents. I know it’s hard, but if the present breaks, you’re done with. It’s over. If you spend your time thinking of God, that can’t break. At least you’ll have that and it doesn’t get old.
- Stop running around and sit down for five minutes and just think. You can have coffee if you want. That’s what my mom does.
- Pray. You can do that inside your head and no one will even know.
- Look up at the sky and remember that someone’s up there watching us and caring about us. That should help.
- Think about the angels singing. If you can’t hear it, then sing yourself. You can be like an angel and tell yourself the good news.
I told you. Wise people, these kids!
Love and peace to you!
PS. If you need a great picture for your brain to rest on while you imagine an invasion of holiness, try this one.