It was a day or two before Thanksgiving and my husband Ted and I had to pick up a few last minute items at the grocery store. All the lines were, of course, quite long, but we settled into one and waited patiently while observing other shoppers. I mean – with Thanksgiving and all the frenzied Christmas shopping that starts with black Friday, you can either NOT shop or just relax and assume you will be standing in a line. It wasn’t long before two women with their shopping cart pulled up behind us. One woman angrily quipped, “Are you kidding me? They only have four lanes open?” Oh she did not sound happy. With great angst and crabbiness, they settled into the lane and began unloading their groceries on the belt behind ours. Now you know how those grocery belts work? There is a sensor that, if blocked by one of your items on the belt, it will not move. But when the cashier removes those front-of-the-line items, the sensor is free and the belt automatically moves groceries towards the cashier. We had a package of Kings Hawaiian Rolls (Ted’s favorite) blocking the sensor and all of our other items had been scanned and bagged by the cashier. Except for the rolls, there was about a two foot section of empty belt where the cashier had taken items but the belt had not moved because of the rolls blocking the sensor. The lovely ladies behind us had temporarily run out of room for their groceries while the belt was stopped. Angrily and impatiently, the more verbal of the two women yelled out, “Why isn’t this belt moving?” I turned to her and nicely said, “Oh, I’m sorry. My rolls are blocking the sensor.” Ted said I should have told her that “… my husband’s buns are in the way”.
Why such impatience and anger?
The above scene is sadly replayed over and over again throughout December. The props may change, but the anger and impatience are still there: Drivers fighting over parking spots in crowded store parking lots, yelling curse words and making not-so-nice hand gestures while competing for a closer parking space. Mobs of people charging a store for that new fancy ‘limited quantity’ item that they MUST have this year. Families fighting over who gets to host dinner and livid when they can’t have it on the day they wanted.
In the midst of this most busy time of year, when everyone is shopping, baking, wrapping, addressing Christmas cards, decorating, partying, spending too much, decking their halls, and trying to cram as much into Christmas as they can, I hope I can redirect your perspective. You see, there is this family that is friends with Ted’s cousin. The short story is this: Ten year old Ryan (for privacy purposes – not his real name) had a heart transplant when he was a baby. His heart is now failing. Ryan has been in the hospital more than 3 months now. He is very weak and his kidneys are failing. I thought a lot about this family this morning. Here we all are getting ready for the holidays, and this sweet family (mom, dad, and 2 sisters) are in constant attendance to young Ryan. I wonder if they have done any Christmas shopping or even care about what kind of Christmas cookies to bake. They are a strong Christian family. I’m sure that all this family wants for Christmas is a new heart for Ryan.
As music is my inspiration and stimulation, the song ‘Breath of Heaven’ came to mind (and lips) this morning. (See below for a video of this song, sung by Amy Grant.) This song so perfectly captures the feelings that Jesus’ mother Mary must have had the night her son was born. The lyrics are sung as though they are Mary’s thoughts and prayers. “I am waiting in a silent prayer … frightened,” the words unfold as Mary asks, “Must I walk this path alone?” Oh my, how alone she must have felt. Who else in this world would have understood how she felt? And in the fear, the darkness, the unknown, and the cold, the song continues with Mary asking God to be her “breath of heaven” and to “hold her together.” Knowing and trusting in God, she offers “all I am … for the mercy of Your plan … help me be strong.”
So I was thinking …
I want to keep an emphasis on the word LIFE this holiday season.
Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. HIS birth and LIFE. Our Messiah. Some people may say ‘Happy Holidays’ but the CHRISTmas tree we put up, the CHRISTmas carols we sing, and the tradition of giving gifts in the way that the three wise men gave gifts to the baby Jesus … well it is all about Christ and Christmas folks. For Christians, it meant the birth of our Savior. If you don’t believe, please just wish us a “Merry Christmas” as I will wish you a Happy Hanukah or Happy Kwanza.
And the best gift of the season? LIFE! If you are alive, please enjoy the blessing of this day! You may have woken up with aches and pains – if you weren’t feeling those anymore, well, you might be dead! Each day we are alive is a gift from God. Another day to be the best we can be, to accomplish something more, and to be with those we love. I am certain that Ryan’s family wants as many days as possible with their son … hopefully days that become months and years.
LIFE is also the greatest thing missed this holiday season. As I look at this photo taken just 5 Christmases ago, it is with great sadness that I recognize that FOUR of the people in the photo have left this life and are no longer with us. Oh how I would give anything to have them back with us this Christmas.
And to those grouchy ladies at the grocery store (and anyone else out there who needs a good penguin slap) …
Be patient. Be kind. Be thankful that you can afford to buy your groceries. Don’t worry about being late to where ever you are going. Be aware that God has allowed you to be here and can celebrate the holidays. Enjoy and savor moments with friends and family – this may be your last Christmas with them. And don’t worry about getting or giving the biggest bestest gift – there are many who simply want to make their house or rent payment this month. There are some who just want a heart for their son.
And to Ryan’s family – I simply keep you in my prayers. Hold each other close. There are others (like myself) who have been in your shoes – not exactly like your circumstance, but in a place where my heart is breaking, and I’m trusting God, and nothing else matters except my child’s life. You are not alone. May God’s sweet breath from heaven breathe on you. He will lighten your darkness and pour His holiness over you. He will give you strength. Remember that the new life of our Savior Jesus, born on Christmas day is the same one who gave his life on the cross so that we may have life everlasting with Him.