Thanks to Calvary United Methodist Church’s current road sign. I used it as our last week’s Epistle quote of the week: “Thanksgiving is not just a day. It is a lifestyle.” Calvary’s billboard proclaims this exquisite truth to all who travel Historyland Highway in Richmond County. Quotes can be like little road signs for life.
Everything I am learning about Thanksgiving and the idea of gratitude leads to the discovery that thankful and grateful living expands life. It opens us up to rest in and rely on what really matters, what sustains and enlarges life. Author Melody Beattie offers: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Gilbert K. Chesterton offers: “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
Our holiday of Thanksgiving may be a remarkable threshold upon which to pause before going forward into our liturgical season of Advent, that time of “preparation” to get us ready to receive the holy season of Christmas. Mark that word “holy.” Because sadly our culture has hijacked the holiness of Christmas. Our secular culture loves that theme of preparation but has hijacked it for its financially driven economic purposes. This time of preparation is now one characterized by anxiety and stress, fueled by confusion over how we are to show love and a marketing ploy that more is never enough. Love becomes equated with things, presents instead of presence. Many arrive at Christmas morning, exhausted and unfulfilled, depressed at unmet expectations, despite all the work. A “blue” Christmas instead of a “white” one colors the season. How many say to themselves, “Thank God, it’s over.”
How can we re-orient – NOW – to this time ahead. Just start with this Thanksgiving. Use the holiday as a threshold to a different way of living, not just with Christmas as an end in sight, but as a new beginning. Savor what appears on your plate. Remember that our nourishment is not just the food prepared for us, but the nourishing relationships in our life. Taste and see the beauty that this season offers, a landscape that is stripped down to what is essential, a way of life for nature and its creatures that calls for a slowing down, a quiet restfulness and peace, a clarity of light and air. Let yourself go and experience the amazing joy, the natural high that comes when you receive the joy of love in the gift of Ultimate Love that Christmas presents and you will find that this Love opens up all the loving channels that connect us with those around us. Use this coming Advent time as a time to prepare by opening up to, making space for the possibilities that new life can offer. Find out that less is more because it leaves space for the yet to come. A final quote from Sam Lefkowitz: “When asked if my cup is half full or half empty my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.” Maybe Advent is simply a time to empty out what takes up space that could otherwise be filled with hope, love, joy and peace.
And speaking of cups, please be sure to read and “digest” the following reflection by Bishop Susan Goff – a quotable “doable.” She gives vision to a pause that refreshes along the way as we move through this Advent time.
background Rappahannock Sunset, money and Supper Supper meal are staff photos