As I write this, I’m keenly aware of living amidst two seasons. One season, the season of gratitude, will find its culmination on Thursday as we gather around a table of some sort, to celebrate Thanksgiving (though we should make it a practice to live daily in the spirit of gratitude). The other, Advent and Christmas, which the staff and lay servants are busy preparing for, especially in our worship spaces. This Sunday in worship we will begin our Advent and Christmas message series, “A Christmas Carol: Finding Redemption in Christmas.” During this series, we will be exploring the coming of Christ, the light of the world, and his power to transform and redeem our lives against the backdrop of scripture and the classic tale by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Each week we will explore how the coming of Christ into our individual lives and our world provides the opportunity to see our lives more clearly in the light of Christ’s love and to be changed in ways that bring healing, transformation, and joy. This week, we will focus on the ways that Christ’s coming provides redemption for our past failures, hurts, regrets and disappointments as we explore the words of the prophet Malachi 3:1-4 and the prophecy of Zechariah found in Luke 1:67-79. I encourage you to read these scriptures in preparation for worship on Sunday and I pray you will join us for worship as we begin the journey of Advent which prepares our hearts to receive the gift of Christ’s light and love once again. You may also want to begin reading A Christmas Carol and consider joining our book study which will begin on Monday, December 2 at Bold Cup Coffee.
In preparation for this message series, I’ve been reading Dicken’s classic tale once again. This week, I was struck by the description of the Cratchit family as they celebrate Christmas. Dickens writes, “There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being waterproof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker’s. But they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time…”
As we approach Thanksgiving, it is my prayer that each of us would be so blessed as to find ourselves, no matter what our circumstances, to be “happy, grateful, pleased with one another and contented with the time.” I realize as I write this that this is not always easy. I’m keenly aware of the challenges that all of us face as we gather around our tables this Thursday. There will be empty chairs for some of us, unwelcome news on some of our minds, unresolved challenges on the minds of others. Thanksgiving doesn’t make those challenges go away. And yet, there is something about gratitude and giving thanks that can ease their power over us. Giving thanks has a way of centering us in all that is good, and right and blessed in our lives. That is what the Cratchit family understood. That is what the Apostle Paul understood as he wrote to the Philippians, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication ‘with thanksgiving’ let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8) That is what I hope to understand and trust as I approach each day. There is always something worthy of praise in my life. I pray for the grace to be able to see those gifts and celebrate them.
I pray that each of you will have a blessed and gratitude filled day this Thursday. And I pray that as we move into the season of Advent, we will do so with grateful hearts and with a sense of joy-filled anticipation for what God has in store for us as we prepare for the coming of the light that is Christ and allow that light to transform our lives once again.
Grace and Peace,
PS. Thanks to everyone who filled out and turned in their estimate of giving cards last Sunday. If you were out last Sunday, you can pick one up this Sunday at worship and fill it out and return it or you can fill one out online at suntreeumc.org. Cards will also be mailed in a couple of weeks to those we haven’t yet heard from. Thank you for your willingness to “Take the Next Step” in growing in generosity as a part of your discipleship.