It is 1:00 on Saturday afternoon not too long before Christmas. The kids are with their friends and will be well cared for until the evening hours. You and your spouse decide this is the perfect time to finish up your holiday shopping. "Let's go to the mall and get this done," she says gleefully. "Okay," you respond with a little less glee. Off you go.

You only live five minutes from the mall on a normal day. However, on this particular Saturday afternoon, it takes you fifteen minutes to get to where you can see the mall. Traffic is crazy. When you see the line of cars waiting to turn into the mall, it is backed up for more than two blocks. It's at this point that you have your first thought that this might not have been such a good idea to go shopping. Not wanting to appear to be lacking in Christmas cheer, you do not dare to reveal these feelings to your spouse. So, you wait.

The light changes four times before you get close to the entrance. Finally, it's your turn. You are ready to turn, except the driver in front of you sits there talking on the phone as the light turns green and then turns red again. Just as the light changes, the driver realizes what's happening and guns it, just making it through and almost being broadsided by cars coming from the other direction. Several friendly drivers honk to encourage the move.

Finally, you, along with several thousand other shoppers, reach the inner circle of the mall and you are all looking for the same parking space. You've been down every aisle near the food court and are finally working your way over to the Sears lawn and garden area. At least you can see the lawn and garden area. You see a place and are just about to pull in when your wife says, "Oooh. It's so cold. Let's look for one just a little closer." You cannot believe it, but you don't want her to know you are just a little frustrated. So, on you drive. Ah!!! After three more loops you find one. As you walk toward the mall entrance, you count and you are a whopping three spaces closer than you were earlier. But, she's thrilled at how the space "opened up just for us." So, you say nothing.

You turn to your wife and say ...
You are inside the mall, and now the real "fun" begins. People are everywhere. Lots and lots of people. Mobs of people. Busy people. Hurried people. Weary people. Stressed-out people. Children. Thousands of children. Children who are looking for Santa. Children who have seen Santa, had lots of candy, not had a nap, and are now ready to go home. Moms and Dads who stopped having fun a long time ago. These people are everywhere!

All these people are now standing in line. Lines in the stores. Lines at the coffee shop. Lines at the food court. Lines in the restroom. One line seemed to be a line you had to stand in until it was your turn to stand in the other line. Guess what? The old idea that the left line moves faster is not true. None of these lines move quickly.

Long lines. Crowded stores. Tired and fussy children. Tired and fussy parents. And the music playing over the loud speakers is a jazzed-up version of the elevator-music-style of what sounded like "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

You and your wife are almost to the breaking point, when you look at her and she looks at you. She smiles at you and you smile at her. The she says the words you've longed to hear, "Let's go home!"

You successfully exit the mall, find your car, and get in the long line of cars leaving the mall — at least that's where you hope you are going. You both sit quietly wondering what it was you just did. You turn on the radio and hear a choir softly singing, "All is calm, all is ... Sleep in heavenly peace." You turn to your wife and say, "Do you suppose we are missing something?"

You recall these words from the grand ol' story: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14 NIV).

You still have time to not miss the real meaning of the season.