I’m living between seasons. The turkey hull is still in the fridge to be picked to the bone. Pumpkin candles share the orange of dying leaves. However, I have had time to restring the stair garland and drape it appropriately down the stairs. Father Christmas greets us as we walk through the front door, but the card still says Happy Thanksgiving. The Christmas tree waits in the living room to be decorated, though at night it still shares its twinkled glow without the balls and birds snuggled into its boughs.
Perhaps it is good that vestiges of Thanksgiving remain. What better way than to start the first week of Advent between gratitude and hope? After all, shouldn’t every Advent begin with a thankful heart? Isn’t that what makes us ready to hear the Word-made-flesh message in new ways?
The reverse is also true. The Pharisees had insulated themselves by keeping the demands of the Law. They replaced the heart of the law with a legalistic bean-counting. When they could brag that every bean was in its correct place, they pronounced themselves accepted in God’s sight. Who could try any harder to please God? But such obsession with acts of compliance leaves no place for gratitude. Perhaps we should see them as a caricature of who we become if we do not start with a grateful heart.
Maybe it’s a good idea to leave the cornucopia up as my Christmas horn of plenty, for I am a blessed woman. Over and over God has given me the desires of my heart without meeting any of the details I thought it would take. I am thankful for family, the loving family who raised me and the family of love God gave me in Mark and Lisa. I am thankful for creative work and soul-filling friendships. I am thankful for the beauty outside my window and the creation glory I can drive to. I am thankful to know that I will never be able to deplete God’s love or His resources. I am thankful that forgiveness makes me His child in a worldwide family that I have eternity to get to know.
This Christmas, especially because the first Sunday of Advent meets Thanksgiving trying to leave with the turn of a calendar page, I don’t want to deny Thanksgiving an open invitation to every part of Christmas. I want to lead with grattitude as I decorate, bake, celebrate and make the familiar Thanksgiving hymn my new Advent anthem:
Come ye thankful people, come!.