I've visited The Compass, usually on a whim, about once every couple of months since I've moved to Waco. It's aisles are filled with trinkets, Thomas Kincaide paintings, and a large selection of Christian literature and fashion extolling the virtues of being "souled out" and encouraging believers to F.R.O.G. (fully rely on God.) Holy crap, if you will.
All cynicism aside, though, when at the Compass Christian Superstore I'm often nostalgically taken back to a time in the mid 1980's when my mom would drop me off at Better Books Christian Store in Tyler while she went down the road to find the latest bargains at Marshalls. (I know, it's hard to set cynicism aside with a store named "Better Books.") I was that kid. I didn't shop for the bad books, I was looking for better books. And not just books, "better" music as well. It was at Better Books that I first discovered Amy Grant and, later, DC Talk. While my mom was away I made good use of the tape recorders provided by Better Books to listen to sample christian cassettes. (Can I get a shout-out from my Tyler friends?)
These stores are full of noise. Visual busy-ness. Spiritual arrogance is usually associated with these places. But as I perused the products, all discounted because the store is going out of business in January, I was not overtaken with my usual sense of anger or superiority, but rather of solidarity with the authors and artists represented in the books, music, art and fashion on the shelves. Thomas Kincaide, Joyce Meyer, John Piper, John Bevere, Rick Warren, and even Brian McLaren and David Crowder are getting it wrong a lot of the time. But all of them are saying in unison, with the saints of all ages, "We need God." Some are saying it louder than others, and with far less intellect, thoughtfulness, or reason, yet all are saying it.
I think Christmas comes in the midst of all our striving, working, and being tired. These feelings must have permeated the very first Christmas. Standing in the Compass, I felt the weight of it all bear down on me. Then a soothing voice from my past, Stephen Curtis Chapman, sang quietly over the intercom the words echoed deliberately in the items surrounding me, and subconsciously by all throughout human history who have ever hoped:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
Contemplating these words I felt a connected to all of humanity, drawn to the coming of the one who will rescue.