The woman I overheard while shopping at Target summed it up: "Well, I got Michael out of the way ... ." Out of the way? Is this what it's come to? Not that I could berate her — I was approaching Christmas in pretty much the same way. If I could just find the perfect trinket for everyone on the list — preferably at $20 or less a pop — I'd once and for all prove to my closest friends and family they are loved beyond belief. They, in turn, would marvel at my wonderfulness. Tall order when you're among the frantic masses at the local Target. Only 4 more shopping days, the merchants proclaim. Better get on over here and take care of biz or you'll fail to have the best Christmas ever come the 25th.
Sometimes I imagine an amended chapter in the bible in which Jesus goes into a Target store — make that Walmart — and condemns all of the beady-eyed shoppers whose spiritual priorities have hit rock bottom. It's so not about the stuff, he would proclaim, so why do we make it so?
In direct defiance of our Lord, I've been whipping out my debit card with the frequency of an OCD hand-washer — even withdrew funds from the 'ol emergency savings to cover the extra expenses likely to be incurred by trying to be everything to everybody. Not that I have the means to go extravagant on anyone, but it all adds up. The other day the bomb hit. My online banking statement reflected numerous purchases I didn't make — all in all over $400 deducted from my account! I hit panic mode!
Thankfully, my bank ensures I'll be reimbursed for the unauthorized debits. But I had to open another account and am now in the process of providing new bank routing numbers to my bill collectors. What kind of person preys on a financially-challenged single working mom at Christmastime? Just evil. There's a lot of that going around lately. People don't seem to want to do the right thing anymore. Even at Christmas.
In the middle of the present chaos that is my life, I managed to find some quiet time. I really want to focus on the baby Jesus and the hope his birth represents this season. (It is CHRISTmas, for god's sakes!) But I am stressed ... and angry. I pondered on a savior on a cross who knew all to well about anger and pain and being the victim of other people's evil. Despite all of it, he muttered the words, "Forgive them, they know not what they do" in his final, desperate hours. Yes, Lord, but I'm drawing my personal line at the guy who guns down kindergarteners and their teachers in the classroom. How, exactly, does one forgive that?
This, I think, is what's meant by the "peace that passes all understanding." Some things I simply don't — and never will — understand. But while I fail to comprehend imperfections in someone else, my own are all too clear. Sure, most of us don't go around committing mass shootings, but we all have weaknesses — and instincts that kick in to help us survive our often difficult existences here on earth. I, for one, have acted out in ways I'm not proud of. A lot. We all, through no fault of our own, possess varying degrees of how to conduct ourselves here on this planet ... Don't we deserve to be loved and forgiven in spite of them? I'm grateful for the birth of a savior whose message to the world is just that.
Wishing you all a peaceful, joyous Christmas, and blessings beyond belief in the new year!
Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light, and usher in the morning; O shepherds, shrink not with affright, but hear the angel's warning. This child, now weak in infancy, our confidence and joy shall be, the power of Satan breaking, our peace eternal making.