Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Safer in Church!

We went to the mall over the Thanksgiving weekend. It was a sanity test we failed, proving ourselves insane. We did find a parking space less than a two mile hike from the mall scene; we did remember to stop at 5 p.m. and put our name in at the new PF Changs where there was only a 2-hour wait; and no one died of anything but boredom. Still, I suffered a case of mall hypnosis, similar to highway hypnosis. After a while everything looked the same and every store sold the same merchandise, all of it essential to your wellbeing and all of it glittering.
We had just read the tragic story of the young man at a Walmart store in upstate New York who was crushed to death by crowds. It used to be that you could get crowd-crushed by sports mobs, then rock concert mobs, and now it's shopping mobs.

We knew about desperate shoppers, killer shoppers, even about inadequate secirity measures in retail stores, so what were we thinking of? Our granddaughters, 12 and 9, eager to visit Icing to examine and beg for the latest bauble or gee-gaw. At least we resisted their sweet shopper-dazed eyes and said NO, which made us feel a little sane, but not really because we could excuse our penury with "Christmas is coming." But we know we won't go back to Icing or any other mall store ever to get anything for anyone.
Are we too old? Or is it our affection for the beauty and new life offered by the Christian nativity story that is mocked by commercialization? We are almost-but-not-quite immune to the sound of Christmas carols, all muzaked in at the same brisk march tempo. Nuance is not a mall feature.
I conclude: You are safer in church. There you will not, at least in most mainline Christian churches in New England, encounter large frantic crowds; you will not be squished; you will find a seat; you will hear lovely choral and organ music, both traditional and not; you may tune in or out at will; you do not have to be a believer to join your personal experience to the Christmas story, whether you feel this year like an infant, a magus, an unwed pregnant young girl, her worried fiance, or just one of the onlooking stable animals. You may even hear some wise words from the bible or a preacher whose homily is concise, clear and ten minutes long. Last but not least you will not have to discern among millions of attractively packaged buying options. There's only one product and it's free.