28 November 2009

Unless you enter the kingdom of God like a little child

Yesterday was, "Black Friday" for American retailers.  That is not a day of ill omen at least so they hope; rather it is the day they hope that Christmas sales take off and they move as accountants have it, "in the black."

For a couple reasons we are non-participants.  First we simply cannot afford much.  I have been laid off since January.  The kids are in school.  For the several families in our family this is not a robust financial time.   Second, frankly the 'door buster sales events' scare me.  Sue-z and I both are less than fully mobile and the crowds pushing and trampling people have become legendary.  One "accomplishment" the retailers are hoping to trumpet is not having someone killed.

So, Drew and I did something else.  We took his kids on a train ride (Gabriel's first) went downtown to the "Loop" saw the City's much reduced Christmas tree, and the extensive and rather nice German market.  Chicago draws a fair number of exhibitors who offer traditional Christmas tree decorations, German seasonal foods and crafts.

Typical of the best laid plans we had our issues.  The normally reliable BNSF / Metra train broke down about half way in from our stop and we sat for about 40 minutes.  We had given up, as had the crew(!) and Sue-z was about to leave to come pick us up when the crew announced the computer problem was fixed and we were on our way.

What I want to tell you about though, is Gabriel.  He was entranced by the train ride.  "Grampa I see tracks!" was a frequent announcement.  On the BNSF's world famous triple track mainline, this is not news -- unless of course a nearly 3 year old is seeing them.  He saw houses, trucks, cars, other trains, people, yards, a swimming pool and trees.  And he told me about all of them with enthusiasm both ways!

That is what we so often lack, both in Advent and at Christmas -- a sense of discovery, of joy and of enthusiasm.  Everything in the window of the train was new and exciting to Gabriel.  He is not sophisticated enough to be bored by the 100th tree.  He is ready to enter any adventure with awe and wonder.

Are we?  Or are we ready to assure that no one who is not like us is excluded, that only right believers get in, that doctrine, dogma and social policy are honored as entry criteria?   Do we have a wonderful good news to tell or just another tie for uncle Sam and a bottle of rye for cousin Jim?  Are we seeking people to tell, or seeking to keep some people out?  Are we excited?

Where I pray, a special relationship with a parish in Sudan has been established.  There is a noticeable swagger, a sense of being something special that is visible in our parish.  We have excitement, wonder, joy because we know we are important to those distant believers whom we honor and admire for their courage and commitment.  Oh we have our issues with their views, but we do not tell them that.  We simply help because we can and because they are very special people.

The kingdom of God is at hand.  As did Jesus, we excitedly welcome those who come to it, different colors, different languages, different genders, different sexualities, different doctrines, different  political views, none of those may lesson our welcome.

I see people, crowns, Christmas trees!  Oh come oh come Emanuel.



Göran Koch-Swahne said...

A very fine post. Thank you!

June Butler said...

Jesus said we must enter the Kingdom like little children. Gabriel has it right.

RonF said...

I am trying to figure out just when the American retail industry became so dependent on Christmas. I don't remember a shopping frenzy such as this when I was a child. Of course, I was brought up in Massachusetts in the '50's and '60's. Back then and especially there Thanksgiving was it's own holiday, separately prepared for and celebrated. Christmas decorations didn't go up in the stores until after Thanksgiving. Moreover, there was such a thing as Thanksgiving decorations, which went up after Haloween.

There's a comic strip in the Trib whose name I forget that is premised on a bunch of people manning a rocket ship. They've been celebrating "Thankseenmas", the single holiday that stretches from about mid-October to January, and making jokes about how it all runs together and have all lost their identity.

Was the retail industry always like this? Did they always have to have a huge Christmas shopping season to survive?

JimB said...


I cannot speak to always. In the 60's I can recall the Friday after Thanksgiving newspaper being so heavy with ads I got an extra quarter from my paper route. So even then it was a major thing.

Here in Chicago, one of the treats of the season was a trip to State Street and Lake Street to see the train layouts that Lionel and American Flyer placed in store windows. Nearly all the other windows had Santa scenes. Several State St. stores carefully reserved one smaller window for a nativity set. Goldblatts had one window which showed a family dinner with a menorah on the table.

In the late 40's I recall being taken to Marshal Field's to ask Father Christmas for toys etc. But then I also still know my 'parts' from the Lutheran kids service on Christmas Eve -- I might even be able to recall parts of the Luke-ian birth narrative and some caroles in (the original) German. I still slip into German when singing Silent Night.

I suspect the pressure was a bit different, but not all that much. I think what has changed is that the one window for the nativity set means so much less to so many.


Christal said...

Loved this post. Thank you for writing it!

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