Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. Collect of the Day for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C, Revised Common Lectionary
One of my paid jobs is working as a bookseller at the largest independent bookstore in Texas. We’re open for a few hours on Christmas Day, and I volunteered to be one of those who work that day.
Yesterday, a regular customer (who might have dementia) approached me to ask if we were open on Christmas Day. “Yes, we are; noon to six pm.” “That’s a sin,” she says, no hint of humor in her voice, no skip of a beat.
Today, when asked what I’m doing for the holidays: “I’m working at the store.” Friend says, “They’re open on Christmas? I don’t know how I feel about that.”
I do know how I feel about that. I don’t feel it’s a sin.
Yes, the store isn’t doing this for purely altruistic reasons, and to be honest, neither am I (double-time pay and lunch courtesy of the store).
But. . .
We will have people come in to the store who have nowhere else to go, especially when the libraries are closed for the holiday–homeless people, in other words.
We will have people who’ve come in to sit at the cafe to have space with friends and open gifts.
We will have lonely people who are just glad that we’re open and welcoming. They can come in and feel connected.
Yes, we’ll have the people who are happy we’re open because they want to return a gift or may need to still buy one and don’t need anything further than that.
We will have people who aren’t celebrating the birth of Christ, for whatever reason, and those who are, like myself.
On Tuesday, I’ll strive to be present to the people who come in to the bookstore for the reasons listed above and more, smiling and answering questions, getting frustrated with some of them, I’m sure. I’ll have a good day with my co-workers, whose reasons for being there are similar and different than my own. I’ll be out in the world, doing something I love, in a place I love, for agape’s sake.
Christmas is a celebration of a birth that took place in a lowly, to become holy, place to a couple who couldn’t find anywhere else to be. Care for our neighbors happens anywhere and everywhere, no matter what day it is, and should happen in the most unlikely places, especially at times when it seems that capitalism and consumerism are holding the most sway over our lives.
I don’t feel conflicted about sharing the gospel in any space I can. Where do you find yourself making space?
Art: Visitation, 20th century?, Church of Saint Elizabeth, El Sitio, El Salvador, http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56718.