A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
I work in the church world. I often have to translate things for others or remind myself that not everyone runs on the same set of assumptions or by the same calendar. Talk to any pastor or musician and they'll remind you that any time from October till mid-December is prep time for Christmas. And the planning starts earlier. It's a surprise to most folks the amount of planning and work and how early we start. It was not a surprise to my wife. She worked retail when we were dating and first married. She managed a children's clothing store and her prep for the holiday season put years of my preparations in Advent to shame. I moved here to begin this call in late August. And it was already too late for my wife's business to transfer her away from her store. It was "the Holidays."
Sometimes, I think the secular world is in desperate need for leadership, direction, and inspiration from the Church. Sometimes, it's the other way around. The cultural practices of many parts of the world have enriched Christian traditions. And maybe so could stores inspire us. Why do they prepare so far in advance for a six-week holiday spending spree? As my wife explained to me, up to 40% or more of her yearly sales fame at this time. With such an abundant and extravagant gift expected to arrive at that time, they can either prepare for it and receive it with thanks and joy, serving others, or take it for granted and miss the fullness of it. What would you do?
Is Christmas the gift we are given that sustains us all year? Do we prepare rather than simply await its arrival? Do we see it as the biggest opportunity of the year or take it for granted? Normally, I'd suggest shopping local, being overly kind to retail workers, and tipping tremendously. As most of us are planning to shop online, I suggest this... Many local businesses have online presence. Buy your gifts and gift cards there. Get them through the tough times. And plan to make a major part of your giving be alternative Christmas gifts. As we have done for several years now, JCPC will offer the chance to support both local and international partners through the Alternative Christmas Market. You can help local families get a meal, support foster families, or help build homes for those most in need, just to name a few. My prayer is you will join us in preparing for Christmas like it's our big season.