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Advent Gratitude Experiment


(From an insert to NJLC’s Sunday bulletin,
Advent I, December 3, 2017)

During this Advent season I invite everyone at New Jerusalem, adults and children, to participate in a “Gratitude Experiment.” This is a concrete way to intentionally obey Jesus’ exhortation to “beware” and “keep alert” while we await Jesus’ coming (Mark 13:33).

Beginning today, I hope everyone will write down each day in a notebook, journal, or in a computer document at least three things for which you are grateful. Try not to miss even one day, but if you do, simply start again. Some of you may already have a daily practice of gratitude; if so, simply continue. But some of you may be more like me where the practice of gratitude is somewhat sporadic. Thus, this Advent can be a time to set a new intention.

A grateful and thankful heart is not necessarily a virtue that comes naturally to us but must be cultivated. To cultivate the virtue of gratitude requires conscious effort and reflection. Thus the challenge to write down at least three things every day.

Sometimes we may have to dig deep to identify those things for which to be grateful, particularly if we’ve had a difficult day. A list I read a while back is thought-provoking. The author wrote, I am thankful for:

  1. the mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends;

  2. the taxes I pay because it means that I am employed;

  3. the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat;

  4. a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home;

  5. the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking;

  6. all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech;

  7. my huge heating bill because it means I am warm;

  8. the lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means I can hear;

  9. the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby and I have clothes to wear;

  10. the alarms that goes off in the early morning hours because it means I'm alive.

With some thought, all of us should be able to add many items to a gratitude list if we stop long enough to deeply ponder our lives. What would be on your list this day? Then begin to look for other things tomorrow and the next day that you can add to your list.

As we journey through this Advent season, we will be pummeled with advertisements, wanting us to focus on what we don’t have rather than reminding us of what we do have and that for which we can give thanks. Thus, it’s a most appropriate discipline during Advent to be counter-cultural and instead focus on gratitude. So why not give it a try this Advent? You might be surprised at how much more meaningful this season of our church year becomes for you and your family.

And as the year 2017 comes to a close, let’s reflect together on what we’ve learned from this “Gratitude Experiment.”