“A little more tree… a little more snow…
a couple more reindeer, a couple more bows.
Another dozen cookies just in case the neighbors show…
A little more joy, for Christmas.”
Last weekend, my favorite football team was playing, and with my brother in town, it was certain that we would all be watching. The game was only being televised on ESPN-U (or maybe it was ESPN-3, I can’t remember which), but that meant we were streaming the game live over the internet.
Now if you’ve ever watched live content on the internet, you may have had the (mis)fortune of one interesting discovery: sometimes, one or two advertisers purchase all of the commercial slots for that live broadcast, and you will watch the. same. commercial. again. and again. and again.
And for us, this game?
It was Walmart.
And that little jingle I just typed out from memory up there? We heard it about thirty-seven times. At least. And it keeps going – a couple more verses about getting just a little bit more packed into the holiday season.
But it was only the next day, when it was still swirling in my head, that I considered the meaning behind the message.
It’s the message we get every day, from sometime in October when the decorations first start emerging, until some point in the New Year when they get heavily discounted and disappear.
Walmart is saying what most retailers want us to believe: you will find the joy you’re looking for this season when you find the perfect gifts, the perfect decorations, the perfect activities, and the perfect accessories for your holiday. That’s how to make your holiday season perfect…right?
I think you know the answer to that question, but let’s keep chatting.
A Saturday later, my Mom, the kids and I strolled down to the Christmas parade in our wee town for the first time ever. They gushed with smiles as they filled hands with candy, waved at the floats and motorcycles, the bands and the people all strolling by. There was red and green, there were elves, jingle bells and music, and Santa finished it all off, waving proudly from his perch atop a shiny fire truck.
It was fun and we smiled and laughed and enjoyed the moment.
As soon as that grand finale fire truck had passed us by, we turned to head back to the car. But before we’d taken a step, my eldest, always quick to speak his mind, piped up very indignantly:
Wait! How come Jesus wasn’t in the parade? Because that’s the whole thing about Christmas anyway.
I was speechless. I hadn’t prompted this question. I’m dead honest when I say it didn’t once occur to me.
We came to a Christmas parade, but he was frustrated because he didn’t find Jesus.
And isn’t that sometimes what happens? And the way I’ve sometimes felt when I’ve arrived at Christmas morning? I’m surprised I hustled and bustled and thought about gifts and decorations and events and planning and lights, but I’ve always felt just a little bit empty because I didn’t spend very much time with Him, or even really deeply thinking about Him.
We can come to the Christmas season, and leave frustrated because we don’t really find Jesus here.
When we got home from the parade, among the pencils and lollipops and Hershey kisses spilled onto the counter, I found a candy cane with a note attached. I hurried to show it to the Bear. The note explained the symbolism of this simple piece of candy — the red stripes for the Saviour who shed His blood for us, white, because He was sinless and pure, and the “J” shape for Jesus, which, turned around, becomes a staff, to represent our good Shepherd, the Lord.
We found Jesus there — just a glimmer of a glimpse of Jesus to ponder — but we had to look for Him.
The big tree and the extra snow and the extra reindeer and the big bows? They might be what makes you feel like you’re “Christmasing” again.
But the acts of kindness, the selfless service, the generosity to the “least of these” and, yes, even a thoughtful piece of candy passed to a child in a parade — these are places where you’ll find a heart like Christ’s.
This is the place where you find the people who are saying The greatest gift has already been given, and I’ve received it. It’s my turn to give gifts to the One born in the manger, the One born to be a gift for the whole world to unwrap.
This is the Hope that has come and does come and will come again — the Christmas we can look for, because He’s always been looking for us.