“The Grace of Last Minute Shopping”

Dear Friends of Second Church,

Hard to believe that we’re one week away from Christmas Eve. Time to start my shopping.

I know, I know.

Some of you have been done for weeks. Months. You’re feeling anxious because you think some of your wrapped presents might look even better with different colored bows on them.

I admire you.

As someone who has had to wrap presents in the old newspaper next to the fireplace, using duct tape, because the more customary supplies had not lasted, I admire you.

I love your careful systems, and the time and effort you have dedicated to finding the perfect gift and presenting it in the perfect way.

But that’s not for me.

You may disagree, but by starting my shopping so close to Christmas, I like to think that I have allowed more room for the Holy Spirit in my own gift-giving.

It’s also true that, now, with every store’s supplies depleted, the “obvious gifts” have all been taken.

Yes, I suppose I could just go “expensive” and be done. Instead, I look upon all of the picked-through and passed-over things with eyes of love, trying to discern which ones among them will speak to someone’s heart, maybe starting out by eliciting compassion, but in time become things loved for their own sake.

O.k., so there was the year I got my mother a “Salad Shooter” for the second year in a row.

That wasn’t so great then. But isn’t the story priceless now? Isn’t that really the reason for the season?

Permit me to suggest that the suffering you endured by going to the mall at noon on a weekend in December seems more like an Easter thing than a Christmas one.

Even worse, I know someone whose mother, years ago, nearly got into a fistfight with a tough little grandmother at the “Toys R Us” in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn in over a Cabbage Patch doll.

By contrast, when you start your shopping on Christmas Eve, there is always room at the inn–friends, the mall is your oyster.

Better yet, there is the deep camaraderie of other shoppers on which to rely. All ages and conditions of men are as one at Crabtree and Evelyn on Christmas Eve: “Hey, what’s ‘verbena’? Is she gonna want that?” “Is scented talcum a thing?”

In its own way, it is a foretaste of the Kingdom.

Theologically, let us allow that my approach is arguably more in the Spirit of Protestantism itself.

After all, whose Christmas shopping is a thing of “works-righteousness,” designed to make some claim on holiness, some human-based righteousness, and whose shopping can be said to rely solely on the Providence of God?

Ahem. That’s what I thought.

Finally, you cannot know what is in my heart as late afternoon becomes evening on Christmas Eve, and the lights and noise of the world diminish, and I drive home quietly with such as I have to offer those who love me, thinking of them and of these days, and with my heart full.

No gift could ever repay, nor words express the depth of my gratitude that God has chosen them to journey with me, and it is only with His help that I find ways to live out that gratitude.

Whatever else Christmas is or isn’t, and whatever else I plan for well-ahead or do only at the last minute, I always discover that gratitude anew. And I rejoice.

For those who journey elsewhere this week, Godspeed. For those who remain, hope to see you Christmas Eve.
See you in church,

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