It All Means Nothing If...

It's Thanksgiving which means tomorrow is Black Friday, a day which for many begins their holiday shopping. Followed by Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and who knows what new shopping day will pop up this year.

Somehow we've gotten caught up in something - we're not sure how or when it happened - we just know that every year we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the same old thing, wishing things could be different somehow. We start out looking forward to Christmas every year, but by the time it's here, we just want it over!

For the past couple of years I've given a message the week before Thanksgiving highlighting a movement to celebrate Christmas differently, Advent Conspiracy. The heart behind it is a challenge to bring joy and celebration back into the Christmas season by choosing to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all.

Over the next few days I'm going to share some posts as a challenge for all of us to celebrate Christmas differently this year. To choose to worship fully. To spend less on gifts that, if we're honest, we don't need and often don't want. To give more of what really matters, our time and attention, to our family and friends, through creative "gifts" of shared experience and service. And to love all through our words and actions this season.

Today I'd like to share with you a devotion from one of our Mechanicsville campus staff, Amber Nunnally, who serves as the administrative assistant for the Mechanicsville campus. Enjoy her story and may your Christmas experience begin today with a thankful heart!

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-4 (msg)

I was visiting my family in Iowa over Thanksgiving several years ago. In my family we get together out of obligation more than actually wanting to spend time together. Someone was always mad at someone else, gossip swirled, language got colorful and someone always ended up in tears before dessert. This year in the midst of the drama I had decided to join my uncle Eric on his Black Friday shopping mission the next morning. No one else thought any deal was worth getting up at 3 am to sit outside in below-zero cold and snow.I happened to agree, nothing was worth that, except for the time I’d get to spend with my uncle and the breakfast buffet I knew I’d be treated to afterward.

So there we were, propped up in folding chairs, blurry-eyed, clutching our venti-double-shot-mocha-somethings to keep our hands from freezing solid. Huddled together with a mass of other crazy bargain shoppers, I was surprised to actually be having a good time. People were sharing hot chocolate, proudly showing pictures of their living rooms already fully decorated like a postcard, exchanging baking tips, talking about where their families volunteer to serve over the holiday. This wasn’t the chaos I had envisioned, this was festive, and warm-hearted. Then the store employees approached the front door…there was a distinct shift in the mood.

People stopped talking and laughing, and slowly shuffled closer to the door with a look of determination on their faces. I could almost feel the tingle of energy in the air. Something was about to happen. As soon as the door swung open it was swarmed. People pushed, shoved and squeezed their way through, once inside, there was all out sprinting to various parts of the store, with ads in hand, trying to make sure they got to their coveted deal before anyone else. I over heard one woman say to another, “If you see someone gets the last one before you, just snatch it and run.” In most instances the panic and strategy was unnecessary; there was more than enough of a product to go around. In fact I was able to calmly find each item I’d hoped to get without any issue. It was obvious when an item did run out because a poor employee, who obviously didn’t want to be there, was interrogated as to how that could possibly happen.The cashiers weren’t safe either if a discount didn’t ring up correctly.

What happened to all the camaraderie that took place just 30 minutes earlier? What happened to the loving parents and grandparents sharing family photos and insisting that they were going to say “Merry CHRISTmas” not “Happy Holidays”? Where were the charitable people who were talking about serving the less fortunate? It’s easy to lose all the love and good will when we get consumed with the things we want. Then I thought about my attitude. Just the night before I was gossiping about my cousins and rolling my eyes at my crazy grandmother wondering why in the world I “bother” making the trip. I definitely wasn’t showing my family that the holiday should be about love. Does it matter how many beautifully sung Christmas carols we sing if we can’t speak to another person in a store without attitude? No matter how many cookies we bake, trees we decorate, or places we volunteer, it all means nothing if were aren’t doing it with love. 

                                                                                                       - Amber Nunnally

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