The mantras that get me through Target

Just like you, I’m rushing to get my Christ the King/Reign of Christ cards out at the last minute this year, which means not only do some things never change but that we’re about to flip the liturgical calendar over again. Happy New Year!!

So we arrive at this Sunday to talk about power, authority, kingdoms before starting over with a people in darkness, shepherds, a poor virgin, cattle lowing, and a baby in a feeding trough. Especially in years like this where we jump right into advent, we have a special opportunity to see where the true power lies in both ends of this narrative. I’m sorry to spoil the ending if you haven’t read it yet but this true power lies with those who give away all their possessions, dine with the dirty, stay with the sick, get out of the boat, share their lunch, carry their friends, lift up the stranger, put their swords away… It all sounds lovely and right but to do these things in the context of large-scale oppression takes an amount of courage and steadiness I have never had to test out.

During this season of the giant red bow, it may be helpful to remember that this power struggle also happens on a less extreme level. I mean, is there any other time during the year when our busyness and buying power is more glorified?? Now granted, it feels a little funny to jump from war to wish lists but if we believe in systems of any kind we can’t deny that there are myths about what power is and what it is not in plain view with every Macy’s or Target commercial we’ll see this year.

I am one of God’s super-sensitive children, especially when it comes to shopping. I have been known to call Marc from a huddled position in a Wegman’s aisle, completely overwhelmed and needing some guidance related to cereal (“WHY ARE THERE SO MANY RENDITIONS OF HONEY BUNCHES OF OATS?!?!? HEEEEEEELP!!”) So the holiday season is particularly difficult for my thin emotional skin, though I will admit that having a baby to tote around makes it look a little less like I’m talking myself down from a mini panic attack and more like I’m building my child’s language skills. My mantra is helpful as I navigate the glitter trees but it’s becoming more of a thesis at this point. This is what I truthfully have to try and remember once the jingle bells start sounding. I’m hoping and guessing you’re a much more settled soul than I am but whatever your condition, you’re welcome to borrow this…

Power does not lie in the latest matching table settings or in the perfect holiday family photo. Power is not hidden in most astoundingly creative present or the chicest wrapping. There are no points awarded for getting your Christmas cards out early or on time or really, at any point before Valentine’s Day. There is  just as much power in the over-baked cookie and the perfectly-iced one if both are shared with someone who is hungry (physically, emotionally, spiritually…) How early you get up to go shopping, late you stay up wrapping, many gifts you are able to fit under the tree within your budget does not equate to power. Power cannot be bought at Jared or Kay Jewelers or Tiffany’s. Power doesn’t get lit up in Times Square. “Power” and “the perfect pageant” are not interchangeable. And power definitely has nothing to do with how little weight you will gain between now and January 1.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe some of what’s listed can be a part of something done in the name of love but I also feel very aware of the blatant and subtle messages that come out around this time of year. The ones that correlate the myth of a  perfect provider (men) or host (women) to the gain of greater wealth, higher status, worthier achievements, and, of course, more power.

These stories that we hear every year at the same time, even the mantras that get us through the mall or the Christmas carols that will soon be flying all over the place, all of these things do not exist for the sole purpose of bringing us comfort and joy. When received with all the openness we can muster, they have the potential to remind us of the great  love that fashioned and made us. That took a step back and named us, “very good.”  They can remind us that we are called to continue this story of true power in the world today, whether we’re surrounded by desolation or a surplus of reindeer salt and pepper shakers.

I promise between now and the next post that I will either stop going in to Target or railing against them. I know they are not the deathstar here, just an easy…ha! Well, yeah. Anyway, this I promise as long as you promise to be well, be kind, and do good.

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