In Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica he urged them to “ Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Those of us who live comfortable lives in wealthy nations should be able for follow this advice. Yet, too much of the time, we grumble and complain and wish for more/newer/better.
Once a year, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Ostensibly, this is to commemorate the early settlers and their friendship with Native Americans during those early pioneer days. Nowadays, it’s a time of year when Americans give each other permission to put their careers and busy lives on hold for a day or two, and, instead, to spend time with their families and friends. To pause to reflect upon their blessings.
Like many holidays, Thanksgiving has become commercialized and is a time for great sales on just about everything. This is quite clever, as Christmas is a mere month away, so Americans can buy their gifts the day after Thanksgiving. A celebration and feast, then shopping and preparation for the next holiday – a nice tidy package.
But what about the other 364 days of the year? Are we not just as thankful for our blessings – family and good friends, gracious homes, full tummies, comfortable lives. As Rick Warren wrote in his daily devotional on November 29th,
“When you’re going through tough times, you need to look at what’s left, not what’s lost, and be grateful for it. No matter how bad things are, there are always thousands of things you can be grateful for. And no matter how bad things are, there is always the fact that you can be thankful to God just for being God. He has promised to see you through, to help you out, to strengthen you, to care for you, to do miracles, to answer your prayers. He’s promised that even when things don’t go your way, he can work it for good in your life.”
Agreed and enough said.
I have had mixed feelings about Christmas ever since I was a little girl. I love the tree and decorations, the lights and songs and presents. But there was always some family drama that tainted the holiday. When I was little, I rarely knew the details but I felt the tension. When I got older, there were stresses galore and I seldom truly enjoyed the holidays. Even in good times, there was a sense of hollowness, like something was not quite right, something was missing.
Nowadays, life is good. Refer back to Rick Warren’s wise words; I have a great many things for which to be thankful.
So, instead of getting caught up in the frenzy of gift buying and preparations, I will take one day at a time. Do what I must as well as I possibly can. Then I will focus on Jesus, the One who IS Christmas.
You can strip away the lights, decorations, trees, gifts, feasting with family and friends. Alone, in the glare of a single bright star, you will find a manger, a tiny baby in swaddling clothes, and a tired but joyful young carpenter and his bride.
Let your hearts be centered on them this holiday. Mine will be.