We are in the throes of a week preparing for a day dedicated to giving thanks. This is the time for gratefully counting our blessings. This is the time for gathering with family and friends around a table dressed with turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and all the other fixings, and celebrating not just the abundance of food but the bounty of love and grace that marks our lives. Hopefully, our annual Thanksgiving tradition includes recognizing the One from whom all blessings flow, the One by whose divine providence we live move, and have our very being.
It won’t take long for our annual day devoted to gratitude to be eclipsed by the season of Christmas. Some might argue the Christmas season already has begun creeping in and overshadowing everything else. All one has to do is to look around at the Christmas decorations that have already been put up – not just in shopping centers but across the street in the neighbor’s front yard. Listen carefully and you can hear all those familiar holiday jingles already playing as the background music in all the public spaces we occupy. And has anyone else noticed that Black Friday and Cyber Monday Christmas shopping, normally reserved for the day after Turkey Day has quietly expanded through presales to the week before Thanksgiving?
Like it or not, ready or not, Christmastime is here. Soon, if not already, the holiday rush will be upon us. The lights are about to get turned up and twinkle all around us. Our lives are about to be shaken up by all the hustle and bustle and the myriad of things we are told we have to do to make Christmas merry and bright.
As the Christmas countdown accelerates, the flurry of all our shopping and wrapping, decorating and baking, will only increase. Our stress will rise even as our energy is falling. We will be bombarded with competing and mixed messages as to the reason for the season. Overwhelmed and confused, it will be tempting to just grab hold of anything, even a small understanding of what Christmas is all about, rather than to miss entering into the season altogether.
My hope and prayer are to provide a space for you over these next few, sacred weeks, that will help you avoid this trend. My desire is for you not to think, feel, or act smaller when it comes to Christmas. Instead, through the first chapters of the letter to the Hebrews, my aim for us all is to have our minds, our hearts, and our response of compassion, generosity, and love to be expanded as together we encounter the reality of the Incarnation of God with us in Christ. Assisting me in this effort will be the framework of Advent, a means of slowing down and waiting, of consciously anticipating and preparing for the arrival of Christmas, that was established long ago by fellow believers like us.
With the departure of Thanksgiving comes the arrival of something miraculous for which heaven and earth will sing aloud in grateful choruses of praise. Something unexpected and life altering, history making and world changing, is coming. Something is about to happen that, even though it seems so unbelievable, we will spend the next 24 days counting on it, counting on Him, believing He will come anew in our lives again. The One who is coming is not the Man in the Big Red Suit, Santa Claus, but of the One who inspires the giving of all good gifts this time of year. The One who is coming – inconceivably, astoundingly – is God in the flesh.