For Christians the world over, tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the season of looking forward to the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and the beginning of the church year. It is a luminous season.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 NIV)
As we look forward we also look back. If tomorrow is the Christian's New Year's Day, then then tonight is Old Year's Night, a time for looking back, reflecting on the past year in the light of the Christ who has come and is to come.
It has been a rough year, full of hatred and death and shattered shattered dreams. Yet the hatred and death do not have the last word; the love of God has the last word. It is appropriate that we should end the year with the celebration of Thanksgiving. Gratitude is second only to love in the hierarchy of human emotion. As it is God who loves us and whom we love, it is God to whom we give thanks, the giver of every good and perfect gift.
Amanda's prompts for Thanksgiving and the days around it were "welcome" and "gather" and "be joyful", words that describe a gratitude worked out in what we do.
Jesus warned against putting on fancy dinners and parties for one's well-heeled friends, because they would turn around and invite one back. Rather, we are to welcome the poor and the stranger and refugee who are unable to invite us back. For in so doing we welcome Jesus into our circle and see his face the the faces of the poor and the stranger and refugee. In serving them we serve Jesus. Jesus asks us to flip the social ladder and climb down instead of up.
Especially on Thanksgiving we gather as families and friends to give thanks to the God who made us and loves us, and to feast in his presence. It was just the four of us this time, Corky and me and Rob and Nick. Robert was not at all sure this was proper; the past five years we spent with Bruce and Shirlee and family, four years in Iowa City then last year here in Irondequoit after the cancer finally robbed us of Shirlee. Thanksgiving is ever a mixed bag; we give thanks in the midst of sorrow. It is only with the eyes of faith that we fully enter into the luminescence of the love and goodness of God.
Today has been a good day to be joyful. We continued our Thanksgiving with a pig roast at Knucklehead Craft Brewing, and we look forward to gathering again for worship tomorrow, beginning the new year with our fellow believers and with God.
A blessed Advent to you all.