40 Days of Christmas

Saturday marked 40 days ‘til Christmas. There’s red cup controversy, exclusive Christmas channels back on XM radio, and talk of REI insisting its employees get outdoors on Black Friday.

I’m still eating Halloween candy.

If you’re like me, you grew up waiting for Thanksgiving Day to pass before cutting down an evergreen and playing Nat King Cole. Any mention of the Christmas season prior to Thanksgiving was out-of-place and downright annoying. It seems like each fall Hobby Lobby and Walmart sneak shiny ornaments and sparkling fake trees into their aisles a week earlier than they did the year before.

The day major retailers opened their doors to Black Friday madness on Thanksgiving Day is the day American commercialism went too far. This year, REI is backtracking and their stance makes me proud to be an REI member. They will keep their ice-pick door handles locked on Black Friday this year. Instead, REI employees will get outdoors and enjoy God’s creation with their families. Their email announcement included a John Muir quote and Muir’s observation has me thinking quite differently this year: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.”

Though I will see real mountains this holiday season, it’s Muir’s former statement that moves me. Tired. Nerve-shaken. Over-civilized. Do not these three descriptions encapsulate America at Christmastime? God bless REI for taking a stand to fast from commercialism and focus instead on God’s creation and their families. We’d be wise to do the same. Commercialism and controversy were never the reason for the season.

And yet, Saturday got me thinking about the power of “40 Days.” The Lenten season lasts 40 days and ends on Easter Sunday. Fasting, with the intent to seek God, is perhaps the best way to prepare your heart for that Easter Sunday, year after year. Why not devote the same focus throughout the darkest days of the year? Why not intentionally meditate on the meaning of Christmas before the chaos of Thanksgiving Break kicks off?

Maybe this means embracing the premature celebration of Christmas, the premature holiday commercials, the premature Christmas music. Or maybe this means thinking about the story of Jesus’ birth and gift of life a little earlier this year. It couldn’t hurt.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the holidays, be they ever so chaotic. Please help us to slow down and focus on you, even before the celebrations really begin. Thank you for your son and your precious gift of life. We love you! In Jesus’ name, amen.

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