“Let’s go Christmas shopping together as a family,” we said. On a Saturday two weeks before Christmas, no less.
“This is a good idea, we will make memories as a family,” we thought.
Well, we did make memories. We were right about that.
It had been a long time of tough slogging. Too much pressure. Too many meals that eerily echoed a previous blog post (https://aspaceforgrace.me/2015/10/13/recipe-monday-on-a-tuesday/).
Yet, struck with a sudden jolt of Christmas spirit, we decided to head out for pizza and wings, see some lights, and do a little Christmas shopping together.
Having enjoyed our supper, we marched into Toys ‘R’ Us undaunted by the full parking lot. The six of us armed ourselves with five carts and entered the stimulus overload that is a toy store at Christmas. We barrelled in with enthusiastic shouts of, “Hey, look at this . . . Mom check this out . . . Can I have this for Christmas . . . I can’t see anything they’re all walking in front of me . . .”
We jostled down the narrow corridor. Six people, five carts, oh please don’t knock anything over . . . the sweat started rolling.
We are sort of an event unto ourselves because of the sheer size of our group. But somehow we feel the need to add to the show.
Early in the shopping trip we discovered that after having many meals which consisted of the aforementioned cereal and toast, pizza and wings can wreak havoc on one’s digestive system. Let’s just say that I bore no responsibility, but also no small amount of shame, for the cloud that persistently followed us around.
It was clear we needed to split up. In an admittedly cowardly move, I relegated the troops to head general and snuck off on my own to pick up a couple of things I’d been wanting to buy. Yes, I heard them occasionally. I saw glimpses of them as I snuck inconspicuously up and down aisles. But for the most part, I enjoyed my shopping.
Until I couldn’t. Until the shouts, “Mom. Mom! MOM!!” were no longer able to be ignored.
I suddenly realized that if they could see me they could see the cart. Having no layers I could part with, I immediately petitioned my husband to sacrifice layers of clothing for the joy of preserving Christmas surprise. He grumbled about how far I was going to take this, and I assured him only comfort would be foregone no laws would be broken.
Down to a t-shirt (yes, despite his suspicions otherwise, he was allowed to keep his pants) we joined our offspring standing in front of a display of goods that ensured they could shoot stuff at each other and not get hurt. Several of our darlings had decided that if they pooled their money together and didn’t buy gifts for anyone in the family they could buy this Styrofoam wonder.
Upon hearing they were being forced into giving and selflessness a mutiny broke out. There was loud lamenting about the dictatorship being run and no small amount of dissension against its perceived leaders. Into the noise one dear child attempted to inconspicuously release the by-product of his supper, while another happily chattered noisily about all the wonders her eyes beheld.
It was loud. It was smelly. It was stressful. We had to escape.
And thus we did.
After braving a long line up and a runaway cart we pulled out of the parking lot with no small amount of relief.
We should have stopped there. We should have known better. But once cocooned in the somewhat less chaotic confines of our mini-van, we suffered enough delusion to think we could make one small stop at the grocery store.
We were out of milk, and eating dry cereal – well, that’s just crossing too many boundaries.
We all went into the store. Again.
You see, the children had decided that if they bought each other a chocolate bar for Christmas, they would have three whole chocolate bars to themselves. And, if they requested a different one from each sibling, they would also have a variety. It was a genius idea they thought.
For the second time that evening, a family of six with five carts descended upon a store. We were all at the end of our reserves and chaos quickly ensued.
“Stop looking at my cart!” they shouted.
“Now he knows what he’s getting from me,” one cried.
“My arms can’t carry this flat of pop anymore, I’m dying!” wailed another. (Case of pop – a whole new story/conspiracy)
“Where are the bathrooms?!?!?!?” came a final loud and desperate cry.
We descended upon the checkout. Six people. Five carts. Five separate transactions. One store loyalty key fob mysteriously missing from my key chain.
I should have let it go. I should have succumbed and allowed everyone to pay full price. I could not. I am a Mennonite. The savings is only ten cents a chocolate bar, you may say. But times that by twelve. That’s a free chocolate bar. We don’t take those things lightly.
A young girl stands behind the register. Flustered I think by the size of our group. Unsure of who goes with whom. Confused by so many children buying so many chocolate bars while incessantly yelling at each other to stop looking at my stuff! And completely baffled by one stressed out Momma who keeps shouting out one of four possible phone numbers in an effort to save a dime.
This was our attempt to get into the spirit of the season. Because in all honesty, it’s been hard this year. I’d love peace on earth and goodwill toward men, but truthfully, peace in our own house has been hard to come by. There is a heaviness and a hurting.
Kind of like the first Christmas I guess. Yeah, there were the shepherds in the field who got the wow moment with angels singing to them and the amazing announcement from heaven itself. There were the wise men who had a pretty spectacular road trip on camels while following a star.
But for the most part, the first waiting broken by the arrival of Emmanuel, was quiet. Hard to see. Harder to understand. There was no revolution. No instant banishing of darkness. Salvation came quiet and slow.
The light shines in the darkness.
The light shines.
But there is still darkness.
And we are waiting once again. Lighting candles in the darkness.
A second advent.
The world waits for a miracle
The heart longs for a little bit of hope
O Come O Come Emmanuel
Someday the light will not just shine into the darkness. Someday it will come to shatter the darkness. Someday every tear shed by every longing heart will be wiped away by the Light of the World.
And hope will be non-existent.
Because there will be nothing left to hope for.
For all who wait
For all who hunger
For all who’ve prayed
For all who wonder
Behold your King – has come! Emmanuel!