I walked into a store this weekend and saw the Christmas aisle, right next to the Thanksgiving table decoration aisle, and bordered by the over-large Halloween decorations aisle flanked by mounds and mounds of bags of snack sized candies.  First weekend in October and there it was, a huge aisle with Christmas wrapped boxes, pre-lit trees, inflatable Santa’s and skating penguins.  And chocolates, lots and lots of boxes of assorted chocolates.  And it made me think…I better start my Christmas shopping or everything will be gone!

No, not really, but it did make me wonder how the years keep getting shorter because it seems like about six weeks ago I was putting away Christmas decorations.  

I’m waiting for the store to open that is an All-Holiday-All-Year-Round shop.  They won’t have to move things from front to back and they won’t have to cart out the last holiday stuff to make way for the new holiday stuff and it would be perfectly natural to find chocolate bunnies next to chocolate snowmen.  But if they did that, there would be no anticipation.  Shoppers wouldn’t have a reason to say “Are they nuts?  Christmas decorations in October” or “Oh, joy, 75 more shopping days until Christmas”.   It would sort of taint the feelings that come when we see the reminders that Christmas is, once again, sailing our way rather quickly.

And, oh, those feelings!  Starting with the lists we make for ourselves of things to do, we anticipate all the work involved in getting prepared for Christmas.  Some can’t stand it; others live for it.  The guy down the street starts on his Christmas lights this month every year.  They begin their merry glow on Thanksgiving and thrill us until well past the New Year.  Each year we anticipate what he’ll do to add to the display or make it different.   

The “Holiday Shopping Guides” will come in the mail, paper or electronic, and woo us with their must-have offerings.  Some of us flip through and daydream, some will buy, and some will just drop it into the recycling bin.  For those of us who actively participate in Christmas shopping on any level, we will budget and plan and make or purchase and wrap to delight our loved ones because we anticipate the look on their faces when they know whatever we have given them is given as a token of our love.

And the food!  Out come the tortes, and the elegant frosted brownies, and the assortment of sugar decorated cookies.  The standing rib roasts, wild smoked salmon, baked hams, and imported cheese trays.  Can’t forget the platters of dried fruits or bags of whole nuts.  Peppermint flavored hot chocolate with mini marshmallows that expand in hot water.  Many of us will buy things we would not normally buy because we anticipate how it will look, how it will smell, how it will taste, and how it will be savored by those who gather to feast with us. 

Some of us will anticipate that we are ahead of it all and will buy Christmas cards that we can’t find once we get home and send email greetings instead – or late cards.  Many of us will say no more cards, thank you, and send messages via Facebook or email or text messages.  But I do love getting those cards and letters; wish I could be better at sending them.

And somewhere miles from where most of us are, our troops, our loved ones, our sons and daughters, will get the boxes we send to them.   And neither of our Christmases will be the same.  And some of our Christmases will be forever changed.  But we will anticipate the Christmas we will have when they come home.  And maybe even consider leaving the tree up. 

So back down the aisle I went after gathering the items I needed, slowly, thoughtfully, tearfully.  Browsing, wishing, hoping, praying.   Time is passing…too slow for some, too fast for others. 

I’m so glad I have Jesus and know that He is our refuge because sometimes the anticipation is just too much.  

I’m counting still.  Come home.

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