I was greeted this morning by those same words of "advent" hacked into twenty-five varying translations, occupying my email inbox like a besieging army. Delete, delete, delete. And before the day is over, they will be back again in force to remind me of impending delivery deadlines and missing out on deals of a lifetime, all for $50 or less, free shipping included. Macy's believes in Christmas. So does every retailer in this country, both big and small.
And yet, it is not that the commercial scrooges have taken Christmas hostage. We have given it to them, wrapped and tied with a bow.
Christmas changes our economy. Jesus changes life itself.
What makes Advent look visibly different in us?
Christmas trees -- great. Christmas lights -- beautiful. Christmas wreaths -- decorative. All are socially acceptable, including incredibly awkward inflatable Santa's and snowmen in occasional front yards. But when our daughter's neighbor saw our not-quite-two-year-old grandson playing with his little Fisher Price nativity set, she remarked, "Oh, how...," she hesitated, "quaint."
I stood in line yesterday at Target, running errands for both my daughter and me. As the weary clerk handed me my receipt, she repeated her designated mantra, "Have a nice day."
I replied with rare unexpected words, "Merry Christmas."
It was as if my words hung in the air. Everything literally stood still for a moment, an audible pause at check-out lane 17.
The cashier quite suddenly looked up from the white plastic bags containing deodorant, paper clips, and a printer cartridge, surprised by my Advent words, strangely personal and loving. She was no longer a fatigued overworked sales clerk making minimum wage, dressed like everyone else, invisible and fulfilling her job. Those two simple words affirmed her as a person, precious in God's eyes, her name monogrammed on His heart, that which God intended when He came to earth.
She smiled and looked right into my eyes. "Merry Christmas," she said with new energy in her voice.
I have no idea if that young woman even celebrates Christmas, but I have yet to see anyone of any worldview offended by those words. If anything, that greeting expresses a nightlight in darkness and despair, and a reminder of joy to the world.
How shall we sing the LORD's song
in a foreign land?
Every encounter divinely appointed,
every word intentional,
and engraved by grace,
proclaiming Christmas every opportunity we get,
every which way we can.
Who will God place on your path today?
Who will God place on your heart?
Joy to the world!
The Lord has come.
Something big is waiting for you!
And He will change your life.