I both love and dread the holiday season.
A couple of years ago, the women of my church gathered over a meal to “ring in the holidays.” As our pastor addressed us, what we really wanted to know was how to get through the season without buckling under the pressure.
Our young and wise pastor really gets it that, most of the time, it’s women who make the special family and social things happen at Christmas — the Christmas hospitality, the decorating, the gift-buying, and the traditions are often mostly our responsibility, and it can be stressful.
Every year I vow to get things done early. But on Christmas Eve Day, I’m usually wandering a mall looking for last-minute gifts.
I felt at first like our pastor was adding something to my to-do list when he encouraged us to practice spiritual discipline during the holidays. He said: “Pay attention to what’s going on in your heart.” For me — 5 days before Christmas — in my heart, there’s a pity party. I’m wondering why there is so much extra stuff to do when my heart longs to focus on the reason for the season.
So what about spiritual discipline — being a disciple? The pastor said the posture of a disciple’s life is one of gratitude.
In teaching us how to practice this, He took us to Luke 17 and the 10 lepers Jesus cleansed. Only one turned back to thank Him.
So first, we acknowledge we have been given a gift that is unmerited. Pure grace. The lepers raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!
Second, like the one who returned, we receive the grace and remember to thank Him. Open your eyes at Christmastime. You will see a million graces.
The third part of gratitude is declaring who the gift-giver is. Name Him. Consider your relationship with the Lord. Give thanks.
Believing saint, in practicing the virtue of gratitude, we’ll observe a holy advent.