Shift1Today’s Word: ‘Shift’ as in… The First Monday of Advent.

Every year in Minnesota as the summer fades and autumn emerges with hints of the winter to come, several shifts take place.

The first, of course, is the shift in the weather. Sometimes subtle, sometimes forceful, but a shift, nonetheless. And this shift always points to something not-yet-here, but soon-to-come. Anticipation lingers as autumn leaves and winter comes.

Another shift can be found in marketing as retailers push, almost prod—okay, goad consumers into unconscious spending. Financial author Dave Ramsey describes this as a time when…

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

At least one other creative take on this painful perspective looks something like this:

“We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about.”

What started innocently a generation ago with “Fall Sales” somewhere around the middle of October, now warms up just after Labor Day and runs hot all the way out to Valentine’s Day with several significant slow-downs for Grandparents Day, Constitution Day, International Peace Day, the Autumnal Equinox, Columbus Day, Halloween, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, National Fruit Cake Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Houseplant Appreciation Day, Groundhog’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday. Whew!

A third shift takes place with the change in music styles. The move from “Regular” to “Holiday” programming is perceptible beginning sometime in early November on at least a few radio stations. But the air time given to holiday music seems to multiply exponentially as the weeks move deeper into the calendar and as more radio stations join the musical momentum from andante to presto toward the 25th of December.

And just about the time we’ve become strangely comfortable with hearing Handel’s Messiah programmed between the mystically liquid voice of Karen Carpenter singing “Merry Christmas, Darling” and the improbable version of the Chipmunks singing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” there will be that inevitable and anything-but-subtle-shift back to “regular programming” on the morning of December 26. We’ll awake on “the morning after” with the wonder of Christmas still wrapped around us like the fleece bathrobe we opened just a day before and wonder what happened to the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Somewhere in the shifts of the seasons and the rhythms of life with all of the challenges and celebrations of another year grown old, there is an even older song being sung. In the midst of despair and brokenness, it is the song of hope and healing. In the midst of war and feuding, it is the song of peace and loving. In the midst of death and dying, this is the song of life and living.

This is ancient song of Christmas.

Layered deeply on “Christmastime” an old ‘holiday’ record by Michael W. Smith is a sweet and gentle song entitled “Carols Sing.” The innocence of children’s voices combines with a haunting yet lyrical melody that seems to rise from the sanctuary of some spacious cathedral. The result conveys the simple and glad tidings of the Good News of Christmas to our lonely hearts.

And we are shifted.

Carols sing to the King, Jesus Christ our Savior;

Born this day, angels say, in a lowly manger…

He came down to the earth bringing us new birth,

Carols sing to the King; Jesus Christ our Savior…

Tidings bring! Hail the King! Shepherds did adore Him

From afar, by the star Wise men sought and found Him…

Son of God, Son of man all in all I see,

Carols raise, His name praise He shall reign eternally…

He came down to the earth bringing us new birth,

Carols sing to the King; Jesus Christ our Savior…

The promise of the Good News of Christmas wraps around us once again. It takes hold of us, lifts us up and moves us out beyond ourselves. Its promise is peace and it brings us hope that once again, these Glad Tidings—this Good News will do its shifting work in us.

How will it shift you? How will the Good News of the birth of Christ modify, change, alter, shift you today. As the day ahead unfolds, look for the ways that the unfolding season is shifting you.


Gracious God, I need to be shifted is so many ways. Shift me out of my old patterns and give me renewed vigor for the ways these shifts can move me into the lives of others.



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