Back in 1944, songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine composed the music and penned the words to what would become an annual classic Christmas tune – a carol first sung by Judy Garland and later by Frank Sinatra:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yule-tide gay
From now on
Our troubles will be miles away

More than three quarters of a century later, Christmas “troubles” in the form of a half-million unloaded shipping containers off the California coast are miles away – but not out of sight.

With nearly two months until Christmas 2021, analysts are predicting product and present shortages – everything from toys and technology to artificial trees and twinkling lights.

“California’s ports are critical to our local, state and national economies and the state is taking action to support goods movement in the face of global disruptions,” Gov. Newsom told reporters. “My administration will continue to work with federal, state, labor and industry partners on innovative solutions to tackle immediate challenges while also bringing our distribution processes into the 21st century.”

As Americans, we’ve become accustomed to easy, one-click purchasing. We also expect shipping to be fast – even same-day in some cities, depending upon the item and its proximity to Amazon’s fleet of delivery trucks.

Supply chain issues are serious business, impacting a worldwide economy, along with impacting individuals counting on life-critical products like medicine. The reasons behind these shipping problems are layered and, in some cases, complex. Of course, it’s clear that the global pandemic rests at the root of the challenges, but it’s not that simple or succinct.

If we’ve learned nothing else from our current economic predicament these last eighteen months, we should take note of this: life doesn’t work very well when people don’t. When government policies disincentivizes work, there are plenty who will happily choose leisure over labor. When that happens, everything begins to slow down – or even break down.

But setting aside the political and pandemic explanations for the shipping delays, how should we as believers respond to these challenges?

As conservative Christians, we acknowledge and affirm free commerce, recognizing that the market supplies critical goods and services – which, in turn, provides necessary jobs for millions of people. We should be praying for a solution and resolution. We care about economic policies, because there are people behind all of them – and when economies suffer, people do as well.

But should supply lines make Christmas shopping more difficult this year, might we be able to do with less?

The average American spent nearly $1000 on Christmas gifts last year, up from $531 in 1980. Gift giving is a wonderful tradition, stemming from the biblical account of the magi bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus to celebrate His birth.

We give gifts to people we love – but there are many gifts that money will never buy, nor get held up on a barge in the Pacific Ocean.

How about writing letters to your spouse and children, expressing what you love about them? Make an album and include photographs. Unlike many presents that grow brittle and eventually break, I suspect those papers will be held and cherished for the rest of their lives.

Or how about recording a greeting or video to save for when you’re no longer here? Let them hear your voice and laughter. When a loved one is gone, it’s always a treat to hear and see them again.

Experiences are often better than things – perhaps you could pool your Christmas budget and plan an excursion. Visit a national park next summer or take a trip to the mountains this winter.

Those who have lived through economic depressions and recessions will often suggest that the most meaningful and memorable Christmas seasons were when the dollars were tight, but love was plentiful.

Christmas is a lot more than glitter and store-bought gifts – it’s a time to celebrate the Ultimate Gift, the greatest birthday story ever told about the greatest man who ever lived and walked the earth.

And here is the best news of all – the supply chain to Him can never be delayed or broken.