“How often I expect life to go well because,
well, because I’m a good person and I deserve it.
How we privileged folks take our blessings for granted.
What if I were to shed that arrogance, lay down
the burden of expecting everything to be fine,
and greet every grace with wonder and amazement?
I’d spend my life at the feet of Jesus. I’d burst
into flames, a burnt offering of thanksgiving.
I’d be glad. Always. Every breath I’d start again.
Every moment would become miraculous.
I’d become impervious to heartache.
I’d spend my life dancing.
What am I waiting for?”
Our culture calls us to greed, to having more and more money and stuff, to get it no matter what it costs us. And there we are hoarding or showing off all that we have, but never feeling satisfied, because no amount of anything is ever enough. We need to get more and more. And do we ever feel love or peace or anything positive because we have accumulated so much stuff? No, we have bought into a level of fear, of having to protect what we have, of distrust of others, of dissatisfaction that we now have to live with, of competition with those who have more than we have.
Gratitude is not a state of heart and mind to which our culture calls us. It is antithetical to every advertisement, every bit of cultural lore, to every thought we have that was established in us just by growing up and living here in the United States. Gratitude is the opposite of what the culture teaches us. So it takes a big move out of the world’s influence to feel gratitude for all that God has given us.
This season of Christmas is a good time to think about the subject of gratitude, because we can easily go overboard on giving and going into debt because everywhere we turn there is an invitation, an insistence, even, to buy, buy, buy! This year in particular since Thanksgiving was so late in November, be aware that the stores and shopping sites on the internet are going to up the pressure to buy! We need to think about what God is asking us to give to this person and that one; we need to think about our own resources and how we are using or abusing them. We need to set our priorities on loving God first and foremost and remembering Jesus’ birth in this world and what He brings to our lives, before we seek to shower everyone with our gifts, but not necessarily with our love.
For we can give lots of presents and still harbor judgment and fear and anger in our hearts. Our inner state of being can belie the gifts we give. We have to be careful of being hypocritical and doing things for show, rather than out of love. For what is God really asking that we give? That we walk the extra mile, give more than is asked, love our enemy, give to the poor and needy, love our neighbor and love ourselves, forgive others. This is love, not the wrapped-up-pretty-package that we buy for another.
Compared to how the world has taken over the Christmas season, the manger scene at Bethlehem is a quiet, but celebratory ritual that not only celebrates the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago, but also celebrates His birth in our hearts and minds and souls, His dwelling in us, His guiding of us, His healing of all our pain. For Jesus’ message lives on in us and in every new believer who accepts His teaching and His Sonship to God.
So let us celebrate this season with gratitude, with love and forgiveness, with surrender and graciousness toward the Lord of our hearts. May we offer to others the blessings of the true season of this year, of joy and peace and love and forgiveness. May we be grateful for this life on this beautiful earth, for God’s presence in our lives even when we are unaware of Him, for our family and friends old and new who accompany us on our journey through life, for the blessings of all we are given, for our talents and gifts and even all that has happened to us. May we live in gratitude!
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I approach God in prayer with gratitude or an insistence on what I want in my life? What am I grateful for in my life? No matter what happens to me, can I be grateful for my companions through this event? For God’s presence and help, for the lessons to be learned from going through this problem?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who live in gratitude for our lives, for all that He has given us in the way of companions who and experiences that have formed us. May we hold all that He does for us in our hearts and hold them there in gratitude.
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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 12.16.19s is entitled, “Recognizing God’s Voice Within.”
 See Matthew, Chapters 5 to 7, The Sermon on the Mount, a good summary of Jesus’s teachings.