Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Other Side of the "Christmas Spirit"

It happened twice this week.  I was exchanging some slippers for the right size when a man's voice rose above the background noise of ordinary transactions.  The young man who was working at the service counter had cheerfully commented to the customer next to me, "Oh, I see that you are exchanging shoes for different shoes and hats for different hats."  The customer snarled back at him, "Isn't that obvious?" His words reverberated through the air like they were blasted from a huge speaker, loud and harsh.  A brief silent moment followed those echoing words, accompanied by a shocked expression on the young man's face, as if he had just been punched.  And then he graciously continued the transaction.

A few minutes later the young woman who was helping me remarked, "It has been like that here for two days."  Merry Christmas, everyone, just give me the receipt so I can get what I really want and make that snappy..

When did gifts cease to be gifts?  That which is given in love, that which is graciously received.

And then again yesterday, I was purchasing a pair of corduroy pants on the clearance rack.  "You all must have been so busy these past few days," I commented to the woman who served me at the cash register.

"I have been working in retail for thirteen years," she said.  "I've never seen it as bad as this."  She was literally surrounded by mounds and mounds of clothing on the counter, returns, returns, returns.  "And even before Christmas," she continued as she checked out my purchase, "people were so angry that we ran out of men's large and extra large.  Don't they understand I have no control over that?" In the weeks before Christmas,the lines backed up through the store, and tempers mounted.  That is not the kind of Advent God had in mind.  In these weeks after Christmas, nothing much has changed.  That is not the kind of "peace on earth, good will toward men" that God intends.

And since when do those who serve cease to become real people?  They are not clerks, cashiers, or stockers, but men and women with names and hurting feet and feelings, people who are precious in His sight.

Jesus came to earth
      not just to give us a holiday
but to show us what love means
by saving us not just from our sins
               but from ourselves.

Love God.
Love others.

Be kind to one another,
forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.

                 Ephesians 4.32

With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God on high?
...He has showed you, O man,
             what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice,
     and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

                    Micah 6. 6,8

What does it look like to love kindness
in my work,
           in my family life,
among friends,
     and in the checkout line?

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