01 Dec Happy Advent!
Happy Advent, Friends!
I can hardly believe it, but the calendar has turned, and it is December. Though I am still eating the last of the turkey and dressing leftovers, I have also joined throngs (translation: tens of millions!) of people doing online Christmas shopping. In fact, I have discovered that I rather love my new holiday tradition of sitting on the couch on Thanksgiving morning in my pajamas, apple cider in hand, texting with family in Arkansas and Colorado while simultaneously clicking the “order” button on the links they provide. No muss, no fuss, as the saying goes.
And then we officially launched Advent on Sunday, and I am truly “all in” on the spirit of Christmas this year. We noticed that outdoor decorations and lights started appearing earlier than usual in my neighborhood, and it turns out ours is not the only one. It seems we are in particular need of some joy and good cheer this year—no mystery there—or perhaps, getting a jump-start just made sense with all that extra time at home.
It can be easy to miss the fact that gratitude is not just a major theme of Thanksgiving; it is also an essential part of Advent. In gratitude for God’s great gift to us in the Incarnation, we offer gifts to one another. We especially want to give to those who are struggling this year, as so many are. Whether loss of a job or loss of a loved one, anxiety over the pandemic or of being separated from family and friends, the longing to have some of our normal routines back or to be in a crowd without fear—in ways physical, emotional, mental and spiritual we have endured a long and challenging year. And yet, here we are with the end of 2020 in sight.
Inc. is an online and print media company that is geared towards entrepreneurs. So, it was with more than a little surprise that an article posted on their website last week caught my attention because of its title. It read: “People Who Can’t Say They’re Thankful for These 7 Things Will Have a Very Hard Time in 2021.” You may have other items to add to this list, but I thought they did an awfully good job of getting to the heart of the matter and offering us a launching place for Advent gratitude. Here goes:
1. Be grateful you’re alive. Sometimes we need to be reminded that every day is a gift.
2. Be grateful for pain and longing. Pain provides us with opportunities for growth. Longing helps us more deeply appreciate the relationships which give meaning and joy to our lives.
3. Be grateful for your needs. Be grateful for the needs that are met (food, shelter, etc) and also for those that are unmet, for it is the unmet needs that motivate us and lead us to creativity and innovation.
4. Be grateful for forgiveness, because we all mess up and need it. And we all need to give it, too.
5. Be grateful for your failures, for they are our “teachable moments.”
6. Be grateful for your people—family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, of course. But don’t forget all the people who make your life “work”—your children’s teachers, healthcare providers, grocery store clerks, etc.
7. Be grateful for hope and faith. I can’t imagine what 2020 would have felt like without hope and faith, can you?
Despite the difficulties of this year, we do have so, so much for which to be grateful. Let us carry that gratitude into Advent and look for ways to put it into action: through Random Acts of Christmas Kindness (RACKs); by giving out of our abundance to feed our neighbors near and far; by praying for those who are ill and grieving; by sharing the reason for our hope and faith with someone who is discouraged. Gratitude and generosity go hand-in-hand as we celebrate God’s gift of Jesus.