Every so often, a quest becomes the thing of legends.
Like Frodo Baggins and his journey to destroy the One Ring.
Or Luke Skywalker racing to the aid of a princess he’s never met.
Or Scott Rochat … searching for holiday magazines at the grocery store?
Somehow I don’t think I’ll have John Williams composing music for this one any time soon.
By now, Heather’s used to this. Over 22 years of marriage, she knows that the holidays are a magical time for us both. We enjoy it all: the message, the music, the lights, even my annual battles to the death against easily-torn wrapping paper. (“So we meet again, my old foe …”)
She also knows that each year, there will be one detail that threatens to make me crazy.
Sometimes my obsessive quest produces something wonderful, like when I uncovered the exact edition of “The Story of Holly and Ivy” that Heather used to love as a child, the one with the red-and-green Adrienne Adams illustrations. But most of the time, it just gets me fixated on one minor brushstroke of a bigger picture.
One year, it was the always-around-since-childhood chocolate coins that seemed to have sold out at every store.
Another time, it was a hunt for a pre-lit tree with colored lights. On that holiday season, of course, 99% of plastic pines for sale had lights that were whiter than a Bing Crosby Christmas.
Last year, it became the magazines.
There are certain things I always stuff Christmas stockings with, from the tasty to the ridiculous. And the collection has always included three magazines each, tailored to each person’s interests. For instance, our ward Missy might get one title with beautiful dresses, one on classic cars, and one about Star Wars or Harry Potter. (Yeah, life with her gets pretty interesting.)
But last year, the magazines went away.
Stores reduced their sections or removed them entirely. Some titles went out of business, others moved online. And a happy holiday task that normally took 30 minutes tops somehow became a sprawling journey to every business in town that might sell a periodical. My internal dialogue got taken over by Gollum: “Must find the precious …”
Why? Because I had a picture in my head of what the season should be. And this minor detail was blowing it up.
No surprise there. We’re good at that. This year, I suspect we’ll all experience it in spades, as we run into used-to-bes that can’t be because of pandemic safety. Tradition is powerful at this time of year, and disrupting any tradition, from the tall to the small, is unsettling.
But then, at its heart, Christmas is unsettling.
That sounds strange, I know. We think of the season as one of peace. But peace means more than just calm and contentment. It’s a restoration, pushing people out of familiar paths and opening their eyes to something larger.
And in almost every tale of the time, from the sacred to the secular, it’s about a missing piece.
It might be Ebenezer Scrooge, discovering he needs to let the world into his heart. Or Charlie Brown finding a quiet truth amidst the seasonal noise. It might be the girl Ivy and the doll Holly searching for each other without knowing why, or terrified shepherds who suddenly see something new and real burn in the skies overhead.
It’s an awakening. Often an uncomfortable one. Breaking the routine usually is.
But from that awakening comes wholeness. Awareness. Growth.
Take the risk. Be unsettled. Don’t just look, but see.
That’s how hearts open. It’s how we find each other again, and find ourselves in the process.
That’s a quest worth achieving.
With or without magazines in hand.