If you've ventured inside a retail business or shopping centre of any kind in the last month it is no secret to you that Christmas is almost upon us. Brightly lite up trees, White Christmas being sung by every musician possible blaring in your ears, screaming children being held on the lap of some stranger dressed as Santa, the sound of debit/credit cards being swiped tapping every resource available and of course the throngs of impatient shoppers hunting for the best deal, give away the fact that the retail world's biggest money making season is upon us.
And the truth of the matter, I generally love it all! This past Friday was my annual Christmas shopping trip with my Dad. Each year for as long as I can remember we choose a day to pack into his truck and head out with 1 mission. Shop for Mom. Together we assemble and disassemble a shopping list, and select only the best for Dad's best girl. And as much as I say these trips are in place to avoid Mom receiving some well meaning duck patterned socks (he's got a thing for the patterns...she doesn't) which have happened many a time, the truth is it's an excuse for us to do something together. As I've grown up and grown older, moved away from home, had a family, become independent the amount of time spent with Dad has lessened. We no longer have seasons tickets to hockey together, I'm not there every night at the dinner table and even though I work in their business office, the father/daughter time has diminished.
It's why I look forward to these trips each Christmas more than any other excursion to the mall through out the year.
This time as we meandered through Willowbrook Mall looking a rings and earrings, socks (of the brown family) and scarves, Precious Moments* and kitchen stuff, we noticed an alarming trend.
No it wasn't that there was a lack of shoppers. For all the news media about shopping and spending in our country being down you'd never know it by the masses of impatient and cranky shoppers.
It was the lack of Christmas spirit. Store clerks were friendly, many wearing holiday colors, some wearing Santa hats, all of them working in tinsel or light decked out stores...
Where's the lack of spirit? In their words.
We visited many stores that evening and made purchases at quite a few and not one clerk said Merry Christmas as we completed a purchase. I worked in retail a lot of years and this time of year I wished customers a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday. Even when Dad and I wished them Merry Christmas that night there was an awkward silence.
What is happening in our world? Have retail businesses once again resorted to banning the wishing of Merry Christmas to their customers for fear that they might offend someone? Did they ever stop to wonder if not sending the season's greeting my way or at least acknowledging my wish to them, they might be offending me? Have we really lost focus of what this time of year is about to the point that wishing a Merry Christmas, a far cry from something more appropriate like "The King is Born!" is a faux pas?
It was a real eye opener this year as to what is missing in our lives and our country, the foundation of Christmas - Christ! Now I don't use this blog as my soap box very often but this is something that can't be left alone.
How is it possible that even as Christians we fear (now when I say we this is not the all encompassing "we" I'm saying we in the way that allows for anyone feeling the same to join in) have let the fear of pushing someone away, offending those who don't agree and just being different come before rejoicing in what this season really means.
I'm as guilty as the next gal, I love all the retail, commercial things about Christmas, lights and music, shopping and presents, cookies and, well, COOKIES. But I also love the other part, warm fires and family time, the Christmas story and Christmas Eve services, the reality that if it weren't for this monumental event, the birth of someone so great, I would be sentenced to hell with no chance for parole.
Now, I'm not asking you to wish me a Merry Christmas if you don't believe it. And while I will say I think you need to think long and hard about what Christ has to offer you I won't spray it in your face like those perfume ladies do their samples. But I guess I am saying if you take your Christmas bonus, and you want me to spend my hard earned money on some gifts for my family in your store, then maybe just maybe you could show a little holiday spirit back and say "Happy Holidays".
And if you do believe in the birth of Jesus or you just like how it sounds, then be bold, stand strong and wish that stressed out pregnant girl, who's feet feel a little too swollen to be in those shoes a Merry Christmas. You never know, it might mean more than you think.
*My dad has purchased a Precious Moment ornament for my Mom every Christmas since they were married. The really neat thing about it is, he buys one made that year so she has one with a date stamp on the bottom for each year since 1982. All his idea, not mine*