Thinking Out Loud

December 23, 2017

A Retail Celebration of the Birth of our Lord

Filed under: Christianity, Christmas — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:16 am

Reading the Retail comic helps keep me sane at this time of year.

This is the 23rd year that our celebration of the birth of Christ has been directly tied to the operation of a retail store. While this is somewhat of a full-time occupation, I am only present in the physical location for 14-16 hours weekly, which means that while we are immersed in the running of it, I can also observe it with a degree of detachment.

My blog also offers me a much wider perspective, or at least an escape.

In those 23 Christmases there have been good years and bad years. This is one of the bad ones. We are far from meeting our sales target for December — everything started unwinding in the 3rd week of November — although we are are current with all but one supplier. That we offer faith-focused, Bible-based, potentially life changing products might justify all the effort somehow — make it seem like a higher, nobler purpose than regular retail — we are still caught up in the notion that the recognition of the incarnation of the 2nd Person of the Trinity is marked by the exchanging of fashion, appliances and electronics.

Obviously, we want people to consider the eternal value of the products we represent.

I am able to set this little business aside at the end of the day, enjoy a beautifully cooked supper my wife prepares, watch a little television and then head off to bed for some end-of-day reading and sleep. But like the proverbial albatross, the store is ever-present. Like the dependent child, it requires constant care and feeding.

I would love to simply ignore Christmas altogether. Not the incarnation part, the rest of it.

The last 23 years have robbed me a little of the joy of Christmas music. In the past few weeks where I’ve been needed at the shop, I played Wow Hymns. It sounds Christmasy and besides, many people ignore the in-store music. Yesterday, it was a 6-month old bootlegged copy of the 20 The Countdown Magazine radio show.

I do enjoy giving.

I’m looking forward to seeing some pleasantly surprised look on my wife’s face when she opens my gifts. Ditto the kids. Giving is part of the Advent/Christmas narrative. Giving is a good practice; I would argue it should be among the list of spiritual practices and disciplines.

Part of me however, would like to dial it all back a notch.

I don’t want to be part of one of those sects where Christmas is simply ignored. That swings the pendulum too far the other way. I like the tasteful decorations that adorn the sanctuary in one of the two churches where I worship. I do want to sing some carols tomorrow. I hope, in all the modern worship, we still do that.

But I don’t want an extravaganza.

That’s hard to write, considering I spent my formative spiritual years in Canada’s first megachurch, and was part of the annual Living Christmas Tree production; complete with all the lights and volume. While it wasn’t the Disney fireworks — I’ve experienced those twice — it was for woman I spoke with after the ‘show’ a case of sensory overload. She knew she needed to make her way back to parking lot and get in her car and leave, but she was somewhat overcome by the energy of the production. Why do we feel we need to do that? (See, for example this video posted this morning at Internet Monk.)

Again, the retail side of Christmas leaves me scrambling next week to pick up the pieces.

We need to decide where we’re going. What to offer on sale. What to pack up in boxes. What to plan for the two remaining Christmas seasons on our present lease…if we last that long. Most of all, we need to interpret the unexpected drop in sales over the last five weeks, and what it says about our local Christian community and the nature of our ever-declining industry.

Then we need to get ready for Easter.



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