It’s that of year. Already, tucked in second line formation behind the Halloween decorations, stand the Christmas trappings at your local discount store, ready to herald in the holiday shopping season.
That means several things. Crowded stores. Long lines. Empty shelves. Overflowing parking lots. Crying babies and frustrated mommies.
I’m tempted to boycott department stores during November and December. I’m tempted to do Christmas shopping online within the comfort and quiet of my own home. But if my goal in life is to display God’s grace, how will I choose to cope with the Christmas season frenzy?
My friend, Marilyn, modeled an option for me. Marilyn lives in a city where gambling runs rampant. Marilyn could lead a crusade against the evils of gambling. She could avoid that section of town. Instead, Marilyn started a ministry to casino workers. She hasn’t seen marked results. But little by little, she is building relationships.
I decided to take that same tact about Christmas shopping. I decided to make Walmart clerks my focus of ministry. No, I don’t vigilantly say Merry Christmas. They expect that from what they see as fundamentalist Christians. My goal is to display God’s grace, not whack them over the head with truth about which they should be celebrating. So I look them in the eye, smile and ask, “How are you?” I engage them in conversation, asking when they get off from their shift, asking how busy have they been, and wishing them a restful evening. If the moment presents itself, I tell them with all the enthusiasm my tired body can muster that Christmas is the best holiday of all.
Because it is.
Do I see results? Not at all. The most reward I get is a tired smile, I suppose, because somebody took time to care about them. As I leave, I pray for them and ask God to nurture the seed of grace I’ve placed on the soil of their heart. My goal is to leave the scent of God’s presence, a scent sweeter than holly and cinnamon, a scent that says, “Grace walked through this aisle.” The rest is up to the Lord, the originator of this holiday we call Christmas.
What group of people can you show God’s grace to this Christmas?