December 23rd, 2020 by Carl Buffington
Christmas shopping is when you go to a shopping center and become a moving target for hundreds of half-crazed and half-blind drivers – drivers who know no fear and would challenge a Sherman tank for a parking place.
It’s where you go to cash in on all the non-bargains Madison Avenue has prepared for you to purchase. It’s tiring and draining on me, Christmas shopping.
Advent shopping, on the other hand, is quiet and energy producing. I usually “Advent shop” for a cleaner to dust off the cobwebs of my soul, to clear away the smoke rings of my mind.
I shop for an “attitudinal alternator” and attempt to buy a new aspect of who I am.
In my stocking I like to put more time for prayer, meditation, scripture study, and other usual surprises.
While Christmas shopping this year, I ended up with an Advent gift.
There I was, in no man’s land, a packed lot in Glendale parking area. I saw a space, accelerated full ahead, began to pull in, and saw I was on a yellow line. “Why that so and so next to me!”
Then I noticed almost everyone was on a yellow line.
“Who started this mess anyway? Should I park? I can’t shop unless I do, but I might be held responsible for starting this mess. If an authority comes along, I might get the ticket even though I’m not responsible for the situation.“
Boom! An advent gift while Christmas shopping: This is just like original sin. I’m part of this mess, like it or not.
Once inside, I got another Advent gift. A gift of grace. A father was trying to explain a creche scene to his inquisitive children.
I paused to listen.
There, in the midst of the mess and hassle, I saw God.
I saw God smiling in the face of a newborn baby, a face so new yet already stained with the blood of his crucifixion.
He said “Yes” to the Father.
He said “Yes” to the children.
He said “Yes” to me.
And there in such an odd place, a manger, he said “Yes” to the Mess.
Post Script: I wrote this letter in Advent in 1975 when I was Assistant Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, IN. It is just as true now as it was then.