She had blonde hair and was maybe just a few years older than me. Wearing jeans and a simple t-shirt, she looked like any one of us. Perhaps a mother. A wife. A friend. A daughter. She appeared to be like any other woman I passed rushing into the store. But, she wasn’t. Instead, her body was splayed across the concrete as she gripped tightly to her purse, yelling at the men surrounding her. She was dead-center of the front doors of Target. And, yes, she had been caught shoplifting.
I couldn’t exactly hear what she was saying, but I did hear the word, son.
I think that is when I realized that she really was ‘someone’. Not just another face in the crowd. She was someone’s mother. And, yes, from the sound of her voice and the look on her face, she was desperate for a Christmas miracle.
As I went in the store, I felt God gripping my heart. Should I go offer to help her? Could I maybe pay for whatever it was she needed? Would the security men even consider letting her go?
All I could think of was the One who was born in a manger so long ago and what He would do. I knew. He would love her. He would help her. He would encourage her.
I wandered around the store in a bit of a fog, all the while anticipating what would become of her. Would she still be there when I left? My heart ached for her and for all of us and for all the world.
You see, as sad as I was for her, I was even sadder for those of us who walk into Target day in a day out and purchase whatever we ‘want’ and maybe need without a second thought or glance. Never even considering what others who may be wandering the nearby aisles are thinking or hoping or needing.
It reminded me of another eye-opening Christmas shopping trip last year.
This time last year I stood in line, yet again, for more groceries and a few more gifts. As I checked out I did think how crazy it was to be in this store, AGAIN. And, the thought crossed my mind how much money I had spent this week.
And as I waited, I noticed yet another woman behind me doing her early morning shopping. My buggy full of groceries. Hers with a few gifts. A cute, girly outfit. A Candyland game. And, one or two other items.
As the clerk finished ringing me up, I hurried to show my identification. A Costco card wouldn’t work. The license I pulled out had expired. The girl behind me smiled as I dug deeper into my purse full of receipts and such to find anything that would identify me. As I finally wrapped up my purchase, a bit agitated I must add, I heard the young woman say to the cashier, “Wait and add that last. I need to see how much the total is.”
My agitation quickly turned into an overwhelming desire to just weep. And, on the way home, I did just that.
Yes, the last few items appeared to be a few necessities for her. Not for the little one she was buying for. She was waiting on fulfilling her own needs so she could be sure to fulfill the Christmas wish of someone else.
I cried for me and my selfish, hurried self and all that I seemed to be missing. Not anything monetary or that I could actually hold in my hand, but all those things that can’t be held or touched or really seen. Just felt.
Gratitude. Patience. Peace. Joy.
I hate to admit it, but most Christmas seasons those things seem to be last on my list. Maybe for you as well.
The gratitude is often overshadowed by the hurry and the hassle. Patience is overlooked in the frustration of all to be done. Peace is nowhere near understanding or attaining because there seems to be little rest. And, joy, oh, yes, joy. The joy seems to be missing amidst the wrapping and the bows and the bills.
This year’s Christmas encounter caused me to really do some soul-searching as well. Especially after learning that the only item in her purse she was clinging to so tightly was a pair of jeans. For her son.
And, as I drove off, she was in the back of a police car and I was free to ride home in my nice car to my nice, warm house and wrap my nice, Christmas gifts for my two sons.
And, yes, I wept once again.
I wish I knew her name. I wish I could have done something to touch her life and change her circumstances and bless her family.
Instead I pray for her. And, I know God knows.
And, I trust Him to provide all she needs.
And, yes, I pray equally as hard for all of us who may have missed the true meaning of Christmas this year. Missed the beautiful, perfect gifts He offers us that the world just can’t give us.
This Christmas, let’s take a few quiet moments and ask Him to help us experience all He gives. For our hearts to be pure and open and willing. To genuinely seek Him instead of the craziness of the season. And, by doing so to seek the needs of others first along the way.
To be more concerned about being the hands and feet of Jesus this year than the Christmas meal or the matching wrapping or the clean house.
Yes, friends, we live in a fast-paced, hard, cold world. Full of worry and loss and sickness and fear and darkness, but that isn’t where it stops.
Our world changed one night long ago in a dirty manger. And, yes, where angels and shepherds and wise men traveled to celebrate one, lowly child. Wrapped in swaddling cloths. The King of the world.
The One who came to save it.
To give His life as a ransom.
To change the world by changing us.
I pray we don’t miss Him this Christmas.
All along our paths He places people. His people. For us to love. To encourage. To help. To provide hope. To inspire. To touch. To know. To. Just. Be. Jesus. To.
Yes, that is what I want to remember this season. His plan. His purpose. His perfect life laid out for all. And, all the perfect gifts He gives along the way. Not just at Christmas, but always.
We humbly come into your presence and thank you for the beautiful, perfect gift you gave us long ago. The gift of your only Son, Jesus. The One who came to this hard, cruel world to be with us. Immanuel. Thank you for loving us that much. Thank you for offering gift after gift day after day of your presence. Your love brings us much joy. Your promises provide hope in the midst of a hopeless world. Your truth outlines our path so we might find our way into your midst. Your Son gives us light. A light that overpowers the darkness and illuminates our way into your perfect peace. The peace that passes all understanding. You are our perfect gift this Christmas. You are our perfect gift always. Help us to unwrap your love and give it away every day we draw breath. We commit this Christmas to you. And, every day of our lives.
In the precious name of the One who came to earth, lived a lowly life and died a cruel death so we might live, Jesus.