It’s Thanksgiving in the United States.
I knew, conceptually, that Americans take this holiday very seriously.
I did not realize quite how Serious that meant.
But, in the spirit of thanksgiving, and thinking ahead to what I feel about the season of Advent*, I sent the following email yesterday**:
We met once or twice when I attended your church several weeks ago; I enjoyed the service and fellowship so much, but unfortunately I’m stuck working on Sunday mornings now and I haven’t been able to make it back.
I’ve been attending a home fellowship group still, though – they’re the ones who introduced me to your church, and I’ve been benefiting from the wisdom and warm community of your church even though I can’t make it on Sunday mornings.
I wanted to say “thank you”: the members of your church have been such a blessing to me as I settle into NYC, and I’m grateful to have found your church even though I continue to be mostly invisible in the community. I know it’s easy to forget that our churches have a broader reach than we see…realizing that I’m currently part of that, I thought that I would make some of the invisible visible.
I’m thankful for church, although I’m not certain I’ve got it figured out yet.
*This sounds hazy. It is also hazy in my mind.
**Edited for anonymity.
This morning I was at a big old church in Princeton while visiting friends for the weekend. I opened my bulletin and saw that it was the last Sunday in Pentecost and I was like, “whoa!”
Christmas is coming.
And so the sermon was about this place we’re at in the calendar year, where we’re about to launch into a season of hope and expectation but we need to prepare ourselves with reflection on why we’ve come to this point: Christ’s birth in a stable was necessitated by the brokenness that he needed to repair in the world. That brokenness is still here; we’re still a mess, and evidence goes to show that we’re not making great progress towards repair.
I’m looking forward to advent wreaths and new candles next Sunday. An excuse for more gingerbread cookies and hot cider. But to be honest, I’ve never been a die-hard Advent fan (I’m more of a Lent girl). I’m thinking about taking it seriously this year, though, and I might be able to pull that off if I reflect throughout Advent on the reasons for the season. If I think throughout our journey towards hope about how desperately we need that hope, not just about how much our retail stores are exploiting the holiday season for better sales.
Maybe my cynicism about Advent in past years has been blind to the fact that there is meaning in the season, and there is a desperate need for the love, hope, peace and joy we celebrate when we light the candles every week.
Christmas is coming. Thank goodness.
It’s almost Thanksgiving, right?
And so we were talking about thankfulness at Bible Study this week.
Which I think was completely by accident, but maybe the Bible Study organizers are smarter than I thought (likely not: we were supposed to do this chapter last week, but I was the only one who showed up so we talked about nothing and then I left).
This week: Thankfulness and prayer.
And the possibility that thankfulness is only possible alongside recognition of God’s existence, because thankfulness necessitates acknowledging something greater outside ourselves that we are thankful to.
Also: the realization that we’re incapable of being as thankful as others who live in situations where survival is a daily battle, because the fact that we can take basic needs and survival for granted works to our detriment when it comes to an automatic reaction of thankfulness.
And from this: maybe we need to work harder at being thankful than we thought, and maybe we won’t ultimately be held accountable for the fact that we’re not as capable of thankfulness as others.
Someone mentioned Jonah, and that ridiculous part at the end of the story where God gives Jonah a plant to shade him, and then instead of being thankful for his brief shade respite Jonah gets pissed off when the plant dies.
Which was perfect, in fact. This story is a reminder of how easily we can spot others’ inability to recognize blessings, but we forget all the blessings we take for granted in our own lives. Perception is a sneaky sneaky thing.
There’s this girl at my Bible Study.
We all know her. She’s the one who is so self-righteous it makes you want to choke on your tea and bible study banana loaf. She’s the one who, every time there’s a question along the lines of “let’s share how we’ve personally struggled with —-“, replies with something along the lines of “I’m so grateful Jesus loves me; since I’ve been saved, I never struggle with that, and I’m just so thankful/joyful/conscious of my sin ALL THE TIME”.
This week, when she went on and on about her aptitude for thankfulness, I actually interrupted to convince her that she’s incapable of being THAT thankful, as a result of her social conditioning and the way her easy access to convenience – even luxury – has made it impossible for her to be maximally thankful.
And then I felt like a bitch, and in some kind of awkward apology I suggested that it is not the first world’s fault that it is incapable of experiencing thankfulness in the same way as people who face death and starvation on a daily basis.
So that was all a bit trippy. I bet that, for her, I’m “That Girl at bible study”.