Christmas, meet Thanksgiving

Christmas Tree

I was sitting in the living room this morning, eating my breakfast of yogurt and cereal, just enjoying the silence of the house, enjoying the beauty of the Christmas tree, enjoying the warmth of the kitten on my lap, enjoying the sun playing with the (frigid) sparkling snow outside.

And I began thanking God – for my breakfast, for the silence, for the warm-ish house I have been blessed to be sheltered by, for the privilege of living in a country where we could display a Christmas tree (and have the room for it, and the time to put it up – these are HUGE luxuries in some places of the world), thankful for the season the Christmas tree represents, for the beauty of the tree, for the purr-y kitten making it hard for me to eat my breakfast, for the sun shining (even if it’s WAY colder than it should be in Colorado right now).

I was reminded of when I worked with two year-olds, and how the things they’re always thankful for are “Mommy and Daddy and Bruder and Sissy and the kitty-cat and pizza”.  We smile and think they’re cute.  We smile and long for a day when our thanksgivings were that simple.  We deeply ache for when we COULD be thankful for “Daddy”, but now, with significantly more age than the precious babies we smile down at, we know what Daddy’s really like, and no one could be thankful for HIM, right?

Last week I went on a rampage about how those of us who live in the United States celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday with self-indulgence, with eating way too much when much of the world is starving.  I asked how this truly celebrates our thankfulness?  Shouldn’t our thankfulness encourage a spirit of giving, not of taking?

Well, this week, I set a proposition before you.
For the next 19 days (so, through Christmas), do your best to stay thankful.  Be thankful for the little things – like your shoes that don’t let the snow freeze your toes, or the way that snowflake landed on your cheek, or the fact the heater in your house works, or that your car worked this morning when you started it (because, you know, it didn’t have to).  Stay focused on the blessings you take for granted in your every-day life.

I have a hunch that in this season of crazy-busy, self-focus, insane-stress, present-buying, party-going, appearances-keeping, doing-waaaaaaay-to-much, that if we attempt to keep an attitude of thankfulness our priorities might stay in the right places.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to remember what’s important this season.

Maybe, in our thankfulness that our bodies worked when we woke up this morning, we’ll become more aware of those around us who don’t have that blessing, and we’ll gain compassion for them.

Maybe, in our thankfulness for the coat-we-bought-three-years-ago-and-is-now-out-of-fashion-but-we-still-wear-it-until-we-can-get-the-cute-one-at-Macy’s, we become aware of the man on the corner of the street who is wearing a coat full of holes and that is way too thin for the sub-arctic temperatures outside.

Maybe, in our thankfulness for the last cereal in the box (even though it was only a quarter of a bowl – seriously, who leaves that little behind?  Just finish the box already!), we become aware of the needs of the children all over the world who didn’t get to eat breakfast today, or yesterday, or all the days in the week before that.

Now, hear me out.  I’m not trying to put a guilt trip on you.  I just think this Advent season might mean a lot more to us if we’re focused on the new born Baby that is the focus of every manger scene instead focusing on the parties, or the clothes, or the food, or even the perfect presents.  Those are great and fun, but they’re not the point.  By participating in those parts of the season, we’re not going to tell the world about that small, life-changing Baby through our actions.

But, if you figure out a way to get that guy on the corner a better coat, or even just a cup of coffee and warm meal, you will be telling him of Jesus – without saying a word.

If you take time to go donate ten dollars to Compassion, or Convoy of Hope, or some other responsible relief-agency, you will tell some child somewhere of that Baby – without saying a word.   You have no idea how much of a privilege it is to give…until you want to and have nothing in your bank account.

If you hold back the words you’d LIKE to say to your father, and give him a hug instead – you’ll be telling him of Jesus (even if your dad knows Him already) without saying a word.

So, summary (just in case my coffee-induced state of awakeness during this time of impending finals and papers didn’t allow me to write clearly):

Keep in mind what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about during the rest of this Advent season.  And, when prompted, live it out.  Staying thankful opens our eyes to the blessings and needs surrounding us.  Staying thankful keeps us in a posture that God can more easily use; a posture that hears His promptings more clearly (and quickly).  Christmas might just mean more to you this year if you celebrate Thanksgiving all December long.

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