If you ask me what Hell might be like, I’ll take you to the King of Prussia Mall in the days leading up to Christmas. The people. The sales. The gimmicks. The merchandise. The long lines. The traffic. The false sense that “stuff” wrapped up with a bow will somehow bring happiness. That’s hell on earth, as far as I’m concerned.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to buy for my spouse and children; but that’s because I know they could just up and join another family and probably be much happier. I can’t risk them finding that out. I know how good I’ve got it with them, and how lucky I am to have and cherish them.
But the whole Christmas season industry makes me nauseated. If it were up to me, no stores would want their employees wishing folks a “Merry Christmas” because the true places where Christmas would be celebrated would be in churches and in believers’ homes. We wouldn’t need Black Friday or Cyber Monday because it would be just another day for the secular world. By commercializing it, we’ve sold the Nativity Story out for a 40% off pair of boots at Lord & Taylor.
I suspect that many folks who don’t give a nickel about God coming to us in human flesh may be the ones who put up most of the Christmas trees I see in store windows. It’s like when I hear a pop star sing Amazing Grace. The sound is nice, but the sincerity seems questionable.
Yet, Christmas is God’s way of telling me that I get it wrong every year. That my self-righteousness misses the mark terribly. Because as a contemporary liturgical resource reads, “God getting born in a barn reminds us that God shows up in the most forsaken corners of the earth.”
Which means I need to be annually reminded that Jesus came to be present in all the derelict places of our world, and to ultimately redeem them. There is no place we can go that Christ will not descend to save, restore, and reconcile us. Our messy or misspent or misguided lives are no barrier for the Savior who longs to be with us.
So I take great comfort in the words of the creed when it says, “He descended into Hell.” That means Jesus himself has been to the King of Prussia Mall, and he will not forsake us, even there.