This year, we’ll have barely finished our turkey (or tofurkey) when the Season of Advent begins. While I’m always a bit overwhelmed when the First Sunday of Advent comes right after Thanksgiving, this connection provides a wonderful opportunity for us to pair the themes of gratitude and awaiting.
I’ve preached many times about the importance of implementing a gratitude practice. Whether you name 1 or 10 things a day for which you are grateful, a focus on gratitude has positive benefits: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And, as the linked Yale University article explains, we benefit even more when we express our gratitude to others. So as you sit around the Thanksgiving table, after giving thanks for the many blessings in your life, turn to the person next to you and express your gratitude for them.
Though our culture has transformed Advent into a month of mall madness and extroverted extravagance, it’s actually a season of reflective expectation. I doubt we can change the culture, but we may be able to transform our own approach to the holidays:
- Focus on gratitude! See above. 🙂
- Resist excessive consumerism: Buy local, fair trade, and/or purchase events and activities (tickets to a play, gift cards to a restaurant) that bring people together. Give friends and family the gift of time with you.
- Do what brings you joy: What do you love best this time of year? Baking? Listening to Christmas music? Putting on your pajamas early and reading old Christmas stories? Whatever it is, DO IT. In fact, make it the first item on your “to do” list. No one else can make your holiday happen.
- Reach out to others: Joy is meant to be shared, and our congregation offers some great opportunities to love your neighbor. You can donate to the Friendship Place Winter Warmth Drive (see below) and/or volunteer at their 12/8 Winter Warmth Event. You can also be a Secret Santa for the Shaw Community Center (see below).
- Take care of your sweet self: Don’t wait until January to do the things you know make you feel good (healthy food, exercise, water, sleep…). Take care of yourself NOW. In fact, come to our Advent Retreat on 12/7 for an afternoon of spiritual restoration and refreshment.
At its best*, this is an amazing, even miraculous time of year, awaiting the birth of God in the world. We sing, “O come, O come Emmanuel,” which means God with us. It’s an awesome way of understanding the Holy One’s relationship with humanity and the rest of creation: God is not separate, out there; God is with us, right here.
May all the blessings of Advent be yours,
* At its hardest, this is a difficult time of year, especially for those experiencing sadness or grief. If this is true for you, I invite you to email me at email@example.com. The Worship Team will offer a Taize Service with candles, comfort, song, and prayer on Tuesday, 12/17, at 7 pm. I hope you will join us.
EVENTS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
Stewardship Campaign: Reaching In, Reaching Out—THANK YOU to everyone who has made their 2020 pledge! If you haven’t, please consider pledging now. Our 2020 budget calls for a <2% increase in pledges. You can send in the pledge card you were mailed or fill one out online. Questions? Contact Carol L. Rogers: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friendship Place Winter Warmth Drive, thru 12/5—We’re collecting gently used coats, gloves, scarves, hats, and blankets (along with new socks and long underwear) for individuals in need. L-XXL sizes preferred. Last day for donations: Thursday, 12/5.
Advent Retreat, 12/7—You’re invited to join Pastor Ellen this Saturday from 1-5 pm for a time of spiritual renewal and restoration amidst the often hectic holiday season. RSVP: email@example.com.
Secret Santa for Shaw Community Center, thru 12/8—Be a Secret Santa for a child at Shaw Community Center! A sign-up sheet and gift tags are on a bulletin board in the parlor. Please sign up, take a tag, and bring your wrapped gift (with gift tag) to church by next Sunday, 12/8. Questions? Email Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bible Study, 12/8—We’ll meet after worship next Sunday to continue our discussion of the Book of Revelation (Ch.11-22). All are welcome!
FaithLife Group, 12/8—Join us from 5-6:30 pm next Sunday for a discussion about Holy Envy (or, how we approach other faith traditions). For this month’s short article, please email Dan at Dansack1962@gmail.com.
Christmas Pageant, 12/15—Our regular Sunday morning service will include the annual Nativity Pageant. All children and youth are invited to participate! Please help us plan by emailing Kimberly if your child(ren) will join us: email@example.com.
Taize Service, 12/17—Please join us at 7 pm for a beautiful, candlelit service of chant and prayer. If this time of year holds grief as well as joy for you, this service will provide space for both.
Christmas Eve Potluck and Fireside Service, 12/24—If you’d like to gather for a potluck supper at 6 pm, RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Fireside Service of traditional lessons and carols will begin at 7:30 pm.