A remarkable thing is happening today. People of many different backgrounds are rediscovering the importance of gratefulness – giving thanks for the simple gifts of our lives. For giving thanks is a major source of happiness, even when things are really tough. Educationalists, workplace advisers, Oprah Winfrey, and many others, have found this for themselves and are commending this to others in their work. Oprah, for instance, has kept a journal for many years, in which, each day, she writes down five things for which she has been grateful. Others have tried this for a set number of days, like the Australian workplace guru Toni Powell with her 30 Day Challenge. For as we record those things which bring us strength and joy, we notice better those aspects of our lives which bring us happiness and we appreciate better the kindnesses and care of others. This is something which the world’s great wisdom traditions have always known, not least the Christian tradition, with its emphasis on appreciating the gifts of God born among us.
So why not try a new way of approaching Christmas this year? For as we prepare for Christmas, we are often stressed about buying material gifts. Sometimes this can actually make us less grateful for the gifts of life and others around us! Perhaps what is really needed is not so much sharing special material gifts as appreciating the simple everyday gifts of life and one another. Why not then join with the Anglican Parish of St Luke Toowoomba in using the time before Christmas as a ‘season of gratefulness’? One way to do this is by using a Gratefulness Advent Calendar. It is easy to make one, or use an ordinary calendar for the month of December. What you do need are 25 boxes or spaces, one each for the first 25 days of December. These make up an Advent Calendar to help us cultivate gratefulness at this time. Each day of December, then fill in a box with 3-5 things, people, moments, or events which have brought you strength or joy (anything from the beauty of a flower or shaft of light, to the joy of a bird or animal, to an achievement or good coffee, video, book or meal, to the kindness or care of someone for you or others in trouble, or something heart-warming in the news). Maybe, if you write down a person’s name, you will also find a way to give thanks to them personally in a special way? Try this for the 25 days to Christmas and see what a difference it makes…
Check out our Blog at http://stluketmba.wordpress.com
and the Network for Grateful Living website at www.gratefulness.org
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5.16-18)
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.