Especially with squirrelly boys. Who were particularly squirrelly today.
Before we went into the store, I told the boys that if I didn't have to tell them to behave, they could have candy. If I had to tell them once to behave, no candy. If I had to tell them twice to behave, no media for the rest of the day. If I had to tell them three times to behave, no media until Christmas.
Jonathan replied, adopting his sweetest, innocent-est voice, "Real Christmas, or our Family Christmas on Christmas Eve?"
Then I marched the boys down the aisles of the grocery store like a drill sergeant, muttering commands like, "Form a line behind me!" and "Choose candy now!"
They were near-perfect angels. I had to ask Jonathan once whether or not he needed me to remind him to behave (which technically isn't the same thing as actually reminding him to behave), and I had to tell James once that I was going to keep walking and pretend I saw nothing.
I'm such a softy.
But only to my own kids, as it turns out.
We got to the checkstand in record time.
We weren't in a hurry, but I felt my sons had been stretched to their limit of crowded-grocery-store-non-squirrelly-ness, and I wanted to put them out of their misery before they forfeited their M&Ms and Starburst. God forbid my kids go without more Christmas candy. That's what Christmas is all about.
Suddenly, a small boy, about the same age as my boys, yelled enthusiastically, "Mom! Over here! Right here! Mom! This line!"
He jumped up and down excitedly. Did I rejoice with him that he'd found his mama a short line to stand in?
I pushed my cart over to where he was standing, hopping and calling. He saw me coming and stopped dead, arms folded across his little chest, lips drawn together in a tight line, blocking my path to the checkstand, intent on saving it for his mama.
For about 0.247 seconds, I considered waiting for his mama to arrive and then letting her go ahead of me in the line.
Discarding that benign notion of Christmas goodwill, I smiled sweetly and said in a syrupy, firm voice, "Excuse me," all the while inching my cart closer and closer to the poor child, who either had to move or be run down.
He fled, in fact.
To his mama.
Who glared at me and murmured that they would find another checkstand because it wasn't that important anyway.
I felt like a worm.
I was a worm.
I am a worm.
In front of my children.
"Kids, watch Mommy closely. This is how you cut in line and bully small children during the Christmas season. That's what Christmas is all about."
Devastated by my own behavior, I bagged my groceries in shame and got us all out to the car as quickly as possible.
I put the pizzas on the spare tire lying in the back of the Jeep. Two Dachshunds in the pickup truck next to us barked their fool heads off.
Jonathan was inspired to write a song. The 12 Days of Christmas Shopping. We composed and sang it all the way home.
On the 12th day of Christmas shopping, this is what we saw:
12 shoppers screaming
11 empty toy shelves
10 cards a-swiping
9 red lights flashing
8 cars a-speeding
7 steaks a-bouncing
6 bags of candy
4 Ramen boxes
3 Santa hats
2 Dachshunds barking
And a spare tire HOLDING PIZZA!!
Fun! And very helpful in effectively distracting me from my guilty conscience. Caroling with family! That's what Christmas is all about.
This morning, I read a blog post by C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries. It begins:
The days before Christmas can be a tiring season of preparation, planning, shopping, and wrapping. But I think as we prepare for the Christmas celebrations, dinners, travel, and gift giving, it’s equally important that we pause and prepare our souls for Christmas.
During this time of year, it may be easy to forget that the bigger purpose behind Bethlehem was Calvary. But the purpose of the manger was realized in the horrors of the cross. The purpose of his birth was his death.
Or to put it more personally: Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner. The incarnation reminds us of our desperate condition before a holy God.
So does our behavior in the grocery store.
But there is grace for that! The grace of Christmas. The grace that is mine because Jesus Christ came into the world [at Christmas] to save sinners, of whom I am chief (1 Tim 1:15). If I had been the only one who needed saving, He would have come anyway. Died anyway. Just for me.
That's what Christmas is all about.