“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
But I’m not complaining. Not even a little bit. Everything feels, in a word, refreshing. The air is clear, and the world looks so beautiful as we walk around our neighborhood. I purchased a couple of wooly hats the other day, I wrapped a scarf around my neck, and I dug out some warm gloves from our graduate school days in Atlanta.
By the time Scout and I were a half-mile into our hike, well into the rhythm of walking, I could feel warmth coursing through my veins, and my attitude of thankfulness migrated from “a good idea” and into experience.
And so this week I’m joining the Thanksgiving month bandwagon that’s been parsed as “28-days of gratitude,” and I’m talking about the Fifth Week of Advent. It’s an idea I’ve been promoting for the best part of a decade.
INTENTION: Traditionally, the four weeks leading up to Christmas (Advent) focus on Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. But I don’t think it’s an accident that December gets launched out of the context of THANKS.
What better context is there to set the stage for the coming Christmas craziness than moving into December with the Thanksgiving attitude of gratitude front and center?
One of the best qualities of Thanksgiving Day is the value of intention. Thanksgiving is something we celebrate as a deliberate choice, and some of the most meaningful observances come in the most difficult of circumstances.
- The platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan, out on patrol, heating up an assortment of MRE’s around a campfire, taking turns to share what they are thankful for.
- The homeless family being served Turkey stew at a shelter, gathering their hopes and dreams around themselves like a warm blanket and saying a prayer of thanksgiving.
- The elderly man sitting by his wife’s bedside in the hospital, hoping for some sign of recognition, pausing to thank God for the 50-years they have enjoyed together, even while everything looks so desperate.
- Tornado victims in the Midwest, sheltering with their remaining belongings in a church hall, joining with friends to say grace before sitting down for a Turkey feast.
- Any family we know, struggling with the stresses of strained relationships, holding hands around the table, breaking bread together, and honestly thanking God for one another, regardless.
We have this choice, every day, to either be grateful for what we have or to peer longingly through the glass – half empty – at what we don’t. This week, for a few short days, America gets it right.
Let’s not lose that magnificent lesson the moment we walk away from the table of thanks. Rather, let’s move forward into the coming festivities of Christmas with our hearts and minds completely clear about what matters, what we are grateful for, and what we can do to share that good story with the world.