There was a time in the not so distant past, when helpful associates at the local discount mega-store were truly helpful. They were plentifully deployed, clearly identified, and well trained to help you navigate the labyrinth of every-day-low-prices. Rather than simply quote “aisle and shelf” when asked about a product, they would personally guide you to what you sought. But those are bygone days. Now, if you are able to find someone who confesses to be an employee, asking a real poser like, “where will I find the ginger” you may be told, “I don’t think we have that, it’s seasonal.” “It’s seasonal” is code-speak for “I don’t know what your asking, I don’t know where it might be, and I don’t want to help you find it.” The seasonal aisle is the default destination for wayward retail pilgrims and the default answer to every inquiry by new-world retail associates.
The seasonal aisle also defines the parameters of our celebrations. With festival calendars indexed to retail sales, it is aisle 13 that heralds the time to start and stop all holiday observance. Valentines begins at 5:00 pm on December 25 and lasts until 5:00 pm on February 13, when Easter takes over until it gives way to Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July, Halloween and then Christmas again. We spin — always moving toward the sign, but never resting in the things signified. The seasonal aisle tells us when to decorate and undecorate, how to celebrate, and how to move on. This artificial cycle of celebration is calculated to keep us in a state of longing. Like chasing a rainbow or a mirage on a hot summer day, you never get to that place you strive to reach. As soon as you think you are there, the next season is set out on the seasonal aisle and the men of Vanity Fair command us, “buy, buy our merchandise!”
This is especially true of the Christmas season. With all of its hype and décor, it comes and goes and then dumps us out into the cold, dark, grey of January. We long for its hope, peace, love and joy to last, but the seasonal aisle tells us to move on. But perhaps we need to look elsewhere for our direction. While the Bible speaks of feasts and special celebrations, God has established a weekly celebration that invites us to abide, dwell, and rest in all the great mysteries to which these celebrations point. The invitation is not for us to hurriedly pass through one season and then another, but to abide in the One in whom all those feasts find fulfillment. Our seasonal celebrations point to the great ideas of love, freedom, relationships, sacrifice and joy. But the Lord’s Day invites us to love and be loved, find deeper freedom, and experience transcendent joy all through a relationship with the one who reconciled us to an Eternal God through powerful sacrifice. How do we make Christmas and Easter last throughout the year? How do we avoid the post-holiday blues that come from sensing that holding on to the feelings of the season is like trying to grasp oil? Simple, by delighting to know the One signified rather than being content just to observe the sign. And by learning to index our lives to the Lord’s Day, not to the Seasonal Aisle.
During this Christmas season, perhaps you have mediated on the great texts of scripture that speak of the Incarnation; Luke 1-2, Matthew 1-2, John 1, Philippians 2, Colossians 1, and too many passages to reference from Isaiah and Hebrews. The angel’s word to the shepherds is also for you, “For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” You have no doubt, heard the promise and received its invitation. But have your received and rested in the One promised? The promise of this “great mystery, Christ manifest in the flesh,” is not to receive merely hope, peace, love and joy, but rather to receive Christ, Himself. The Reformers were fond of saying, “to know Christ, is to know His benefits.” Only by receiving Him will those benefits follow. Apart from Him they are just a mist, that appears for a little while and then is gone.
Join us this Lord’s Day, December 29, as we examine Colossians 2:6-7 and consider how to receive and walk in the great offer this season declares. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.