Get Out of Line – Holiday EditionPosted: November 24, 2013
For everyone complaining about stores putting up Christmas decorations too early, writing less-than-merry notes to retail outlets, judging people who are camping in front of Best Buy already and boycotting stores – This post is for us.
Recently I went to an exhibition of Hollywood Costumes at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. It was a grand affair showcasing everything from a sequined dress in Broadway Melody of 1929 to Kate Winslet’s monstrously large hat featured in Titanic. The exhibit started in an open room with Claudette Colbert’s Cleopatra costume beside Elizabeth Taylor’s Nile niceties (not very fair to Claudette, actually – Liz was amazing). There was a group of people looking at the dresses and the rest of us bunched up behind them waiting our turn. When the security guards changed shifts I overheard the following statement.
“About every 15 minutes or so you have to remind them there isn’t a line. People tend to line up naturally and it blocks the flow.”
People tend to line up naturally.
Isn’t that the truth? Being finite and craving order, we humans love us a good line. We spend gallons of time in pre-school learning how to stand in line. We play games in Junior Camp where we ask people to line up by height, birth month, or age. We walk across the various graduation stages of our life in well-dressed lines. Most of us get job that involve putting, keeping, or designing things to stay in line. Heck, at Christmas time we all set out scenes celebrating the caravan of magi finding the baby Jesus. What’s a caravan? A walking line – with camels.
There is one line we are addicted to more than any other: Time.
What time is it? (It’s adventure time!)
What time do you want me to be there? (personal time)
What time is my appointment? (a time with a time!)
What time does church start? (worship has a time)
Church ran late today. (worship has a finite time?)
Why are the magi getting here so early? The baby is still fussy! (Rotten time-less camels).
We are allllll about time. Which, when you think about it, is a little narcissistic because we are the makers of time. One of the things we struggle with in our faith journey more than any other is the fact that God doesn’t own a watch. We use words with God like: past, future, soon, and now. God just nods at our perception of lined existence and accepts it like a parent taking a hand-print turkey and placing it on the fridge. “Yes, yes, children. Very good.”
The problem isn’t that we made time or that we love time. The problem is that we have trapped ourselves in time and it steals from us the gift God made – abundant joy. We spend so many moments fussing, worrying, complaining, counting and howling about things that seem out of our time perception we miss out on the real message and real joy we were trying to promote in the first place. When you walk into the store on November first and see tinsel, trees and silver bells – you have a CHOICE over how you respond. You can get mad and rail about the “too-darn-early-ness’ of it all and have a grouchy day OR you can say “wow – such bright colors” and have a fun afternoon. You choose.
Here’s my thoughts on the rants I encounter.
“It’s too early for Christmas stuff. It’s not even Advent!” – Since we made up time – you should probably know we made up Christmas and Advent too. In fact some biblical scholarly type folks dare to say Jesus wasn’t even born in December – let alone the 25th. So, there really isn’t a “too early” when it comes to being spiritual. In fact, there is nowhere that God says, “Only celebrate the birth of love in the world after Thanksgiving and before the New Year.” – I’m pretty sure the watchless God likes us to celebrate that at any time, and probably more than we do.
“It demeans Thanksgiving.” – Really? A jingle bell song on the radio and some candy canes on a shelf and you are no longer thankful? I would suggest your hold on gratefulness might be a little shallow if you aren’t going to celebrate Thanksgiving because retailers get their wares out a little earlier than you would like. Thanksgiving is in the soul – not the supermarket.
“People end up having to work on a family day!” Well, yes. Ask anyone who is or who loves a policeman, nurse, 911 dispatcher, military personnel, tow-truck driver, plumber, heater repair person (we love it when they work on a holiday because our heater burns out, we’ll even pay them extra to do it) – and they will tell you that sometimes you have to work on a holiday. But, they will also tell you that you still manage to have a family day – some other day. Because the truth is – you can be thankful and celebrate your family, faith and friends ANY DAY and should do it more than one day a year anyhow. Word on the street is – you can even buy turkeys all year long if you want.
“Stores encourage people to camp out in line and miss Thanksgiving just for $200 off on a flat screen TV. The stores and the people are wrong!” It has been my experience that someone willing to spend three days in a tent for a sale needs little encouragement. Maybe camping in front of Best Buy IS a way they celebrate Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s a ritual for them that is more than just a cheap TV. And, maybe getting that much off a flat screen makes them thankful. It’s not my place to judge them. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not yours either.
“People pushing, shoving, grabbing material things shows the worst of humanity and defies the meaning of the season.” Well, people constantly complaining, judging others, agonizing, boycotting stores that don’t use the word Christmas, and claiming to be more spiritual than others pretty much does the same.
So – here’s the deal: If you choose to camp in front of Walmart and have spam on crackers for Thanksgiving – be thankful. If you choose to sit in your house with turkey and watch football with loved ones – be thankful. If you choose to block out the decorations, radio stations, and Santa commercials until December – be at peace and let others be that way too. If you’re already up on egg nog and have a candy cane scarf around your neck – be at peace and let others be that way too.
God has no watch. Love has no season. Thankfulness should be daily anyway.
Live your love
Love your neighbor
Get out of line.