If you’re concerned about your business this Christmas season, you’re certainly not alone—but let me suggest a simple credit solution that may help see you through the days ahead.
While the government’s recent economic bailout package ran to several hundred pages, mine consists of 17 words.
They’re found in Luke’s gospel, when the angels tell a group of surprised shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
That may not sound like much of a plan, but it seems to me that the story of the first Christmas includes some helpful and reassuring reminders in a time of uncertainty.
Let’s face it, by modern-day marketing standards, God got the whole incarnation thing backward.
There was no major launch package or rollout plan. Sure, He let a few need-to-know folk in on the program in advance, but for the most part He saved the announcement until after the fact. More of a confirmation than a promotion.
But I see some wisdom there: No one was able to receive kudos for something that really was beyond them.
Too often that seems to rather be in contrast to the way things work in our industry. We like to—or try to—make things happen.
We have focus groups and branding specialists, big publicity campaigns and the like. God’s revelation somehow ends up getting presented more as our genius.
Now I’m not knocking business smarts and professionalism. God’s people should be among the best at what they do. Marketing and advertising has its place, of course.
But sometimes, it seems to me, we are in danger of squeezing Him out and relying too much on our own best judgments and efforts.
That’s never more true than in times of difficulty, when it’s all too easy to try to fix things by just working harder or longer.
That sort of determination and attitude is commendable. But it can mask an unspoken doubt, the secret fear that actually God can’t really be trusted and it’s all down to us.
While “can-do” attitude is good, there is also an appropriate time for some humble “can’t-do” honesty, too, turning us back to dependence on God.
Consider for a moment that two of the biggest happenings in our industry in this last year have been, if not entirely accidental, then at least hugely unexpected successes.
This time last year, hardly anyone had heard of The Shack, sort of self-published and quietly shipped out of a California garage by a couple of industry newbies. The book from a neophyte publishing house has, of course, gone on to sell more than 4 million copies and create the kind of buzz that long-established companies envy.
Incidentally, the men behind The Shack will be telling more of some of their own wonder—and the lessons they believe are to be learned from their remarkable success— in next month’s issue of Christian Retailing, as they debut our new guest column series.
Then there was The Love Dare, which catapulted onto the New York Times best-seller list as the movie from which it was drawn, Fireproof, astounded the Hollywood elite with its near-$30 million success at the box office.
The pro-marriage manual was merely a plot device in the film until someone thought that they could sell a few of those in real-life, and the race was on to produce an actual manuscript in time for the movie’s release. Sales were inching toward 1 million in a matter of weeks.
So much for great planning. Each of these cases reminds me that, like Christmas, on occasion things seem to happen almost despite, rather than because, of us, and we only discover how significant they are afterward. We have no bragging rights.
Some may point to both The Shack and Fireproof and sniff, arguing that they are not of as high a standard artistically as some secular creations.
There may be some merit to that, but not enough to completely dismiss the fact that each seems to have touched many people at a level that other works—for all their big budgets and high-minded “creativity”—have failed to do.
Both The Shack and Fireproof/The Love Dare remind us that we do well not to judge things merely by human standards, nor to credit ourselves too much for any success.
The men involved in each of these remarkable projects have cheerfully and gratefully acknowledged God’s hand on their efforts, and expressed their desire to be good shepherds of what He initiated.
Which appropriately brings us back to when the angels interrupted the shepherds’ night shift that first Christmas.
The angelic announcers made the proper order of things clear from the start: “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14).
And once that had been established, there was to be “peace to men” on whom His favor rested—even in the midst of great turmoil.
May this, ahem, modest proposal, be your experience this Christmas.