Maybe you’ve noticed this phenomenon at your house…you flip the calendar to November, and about a thousand Christmas catalogs rush into your mailbox! Every year it’s like someone is aiming a fire hose filled with junk mail right into the mailbox.
It kind of gets in the way of all the talk about thankfulness.
In school projects, at church, and during mealtime and bedtime prayers, we list the things we’re most thankful for.
Family. Friends. Food. Shelter. Jesus.
And then in a violent episode of emotional whiplash we’re suddenly staring down a tower of catalogs and salivating over a zillion things we want and “need.”
The catalogs stack up on my counter, slide around in my vehicle, and fill our magazine rack.
One year my boys used them to make extensive Christmas lists. Then they rearranged their lists in order of priority. They *starred* the things they “really wanted,” and they even drew illustrations and listed catalog page numbers for my convenience. (So thoughtful!)
One of them even complied a Christmas list BOOK. The pages were numbered and the book was bound in scotch tape.
I had to admit it was creative, but seeing the effort we were putting into our lists made me realize, we didn’t need a Christmas miracle, we needed a Christmas intervention!
And while I didn’t throw out the lists, I did try to redirect our focus.
I figured if I was going to help my kids focus on being thankful before we got to the season of Advent and the celebration of Christ’s birth, then I’d better have my heart focused there first.
So I went back to the familiar Christmas story. I wanted to rediscover the wonder I’ve seen in the faces of young children as they hear the Christmas story for the first time. I wanted to feel the overwhelming gratitude for God’s work in the world. I wanted to read it as though it was the first time.
So I read slowly, just a few verses at a time each day. I studied and tried to notice things I hadn’t seen before—to carefully observe what I had previously rushed past. I wrote down those observations and then “retold” the story to myself.
And you know what? I rediscovered the absolute wonder of that first Christmas, and it stirred up a deep gratitude for God’s work. Not only gratitude for family and friends and food, but an overwhelming gratitude for his orchestration of a complex plan no human could have imagined.
It’s hard to see the things I’m thankful for when there is a stack of catalogs in my way. Sometimes my commitment to a crazy schedule keeps me from taking time to notice, or to say how thankful I am. But if we slow down for a bit, to notice his work, to listen to his word, and feel the wonder, the reasons for gratitude can always be found, because God is always working.
P.S. Would you like to take a long slow look at the Christmas story? With the help of some technological wizardry, that long, slow look turned into an Advent devotional. It’s an eBook you can read quietly with a cup of coffee before you begin your day, or around the dinner table with your family. It’s called “A Remarkable Advent: Stories of the Ordinary People God Chose to Fulfill His Extraordinary Plan.” You can receive your gift copy via email by entering your address below, or learn more about it by clicking here.