I usually try to avoid going to the mall to shop during the days before Christmas. This year, I needed one thing that I could only buy there so off I went. After about 20 minutes or so, I found a parking spot and entered the fray. The mall was full of folks, some old men sitting on the communal couches, waiting with packages piled around them, teenagers roving in groups, some smiling and laughing but most wandering around with blank stares. As I joined the crowd, I had the unbidden thought: “What in the world would Jesus think of all this – all this consumerism and stress and lost expressions?” And then almost immediately, I heard in my heart these words of scripture: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9.36). And it was all right, there in the mall, in the midst of the mess of Christmas. God was with us: Emmanuel.