Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thanksgiving and Lent: What Feasting and Fasting Have in Common

I'm starting to view November as a holy month. That might sound odd, as the one event most of us associate with this month is a festival of gluttony unrivaled during the rest of the year, but go with me on this one…It started in an unlikely place: my three-year-old's preschool calendar. Along with the shape of the month and clip art of cornucopias, the calendar exhorted parents to discuss with our child things that they're thankful for. In our family, we have a Thanksgiving notebook that we all write in on Thanksgiving day (well, those of us who can write--those who can speak just tell us). We jot a couple of pages of all the things we find ourselves grateful for this year. I love this tradition--I love that we have any Thanksgiving tradition that pertains to the actual giving of thanks. But Gabriel's preschool calendar started me thinking about taking the entire month of November as a devotion of thanks to God. I've heard of people doing this before, and it always sounded a little cheesy and overdone to me, but really, what could be wrong with being more thankful? So every day I am trying to call to mind and give thanks for the innumerable blessings and gifts God has so graciously poured into my life. And once I purposed to do this, I began to realize how such an exercise could prepare me even more fully for the Christmas season.

Christmastime, as we all know, seems to begin in a headlong rush to the mall no sooner than the giblets have been wiped from the good china. (I know, I know, the cliche of Christmas commercialism is rivaled only by the cliche of our bemoaning that commercialization.) But truly, as much as I love the season, it can be at times a going-through-the-motions that leaves me feeling more weary than worshipful. But my hope this year is to turn my November, as Lent is to Easter, into a pre-Christmas preparation of heart. By focusing every day on the things I am thankful for, I believe I am readying my heart for the great gifts the Christmas season holds: gifts of time with family, material gifts (not gonna lie!), and of course the gift of the child in the manger. If I can train my heart and mind now, maybe I will also even be better prepared to weather the storms of stress and strain that are also bound to come with the Christmas season. If I can begin to shape my own attitude, maybe I will be more likely to bless and less likely to curse the people that inevitably cause some of that stress and strain.

As a Catholic, I am (sometimes painfully) familiar with the value of Lent--that time of abstinence and sacrifice that whittles the soul into a shape of humility for Easter. Though it's a time of fasting, I think it parallels with this time of feasting. Both are powerful activities that draw us nearer to God. Both are instructed by and practiced in God's Word. Both prepare us to receive even more abundantly of His goodness. And interestingly, I noticed yesterday that Philippians 4:6 (which is basically the biblical recipe for peace) includes thanksgiving as a key ingredient: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." I hope this path of thanksgiving will lead (bonus!) to an increased peace in my life.

And if it does, thanks be to God!

1 comment:

  1. I love your thoughts on both of these wonderful months. My adult daughters have made a huge poster in their apartment . . . and keep adding list of the things they are grateful to God for this season. (I made it on the list!).

    Have a wonderful season.