In our American culture we are blessed that Thanksgiving segues into the Advent Season of Christmas. This year, we celebrated the holiday (the Holy Day) of giving thanks 2 days before the first day of Advent began.

2020 has been a whirlwind of life changing situations for all of us in some way. Not just all of us in our families, workplace, and churches, but ALL of us across the world.

Since Oct. 30, 2019, Jim and I have lost 9 people in our lives. Three of them were of our elder generation on Jim’s side of the family including his father, his father’s sister, and his maternal uncle all within the ages of 89-93. Two of the nine were lost to Covid-19. Two were lost to suicide. Two passed away from other grave illnesses that ended their lives “way before their time.”

Many of you as parents have had to change your whole life rhythm because of the COVID-19 precautionary measures being put in place across the country and the world. Working from home and making sure your children are being educated through online courses, or homeschooling is INDEED, a major ongoing challenge.

Along with the process of the presidential election and racial justice concerns within our country there is so much stress in the world that has never been experienced in this particular way when all the factors are considered.

Whether there is loss because of deaths or loss of a life that “used to be”, I am venturing to say, that ALL of us are experiencing grief in some shape or form. That is, we are trying to process our internal thoughts and feelings about our losses. Yet, when we express this grief outwardly we are in the process of mourning. The emotions of sadness, anger, hopelessness and others not named are all in play during the process of grief which takes as long as it takes.

During the month before Thanksgiving, I was realizing more and more each day, that to manage or walk through all of this personal grief and the grief within the world during this pandemic, we have to name something that we are grateful for. Gratitude must walk alongside of grief in order for us to begin to heal individually which, in the long run, will help others in their own path of grief. Having a thankful heart in the midst of pain and disorder will help us to be gracious to ourselves, to God, and to others instead of becoming embittered with the situation around us. For myself, it has to be a daily practice not just once or twice but as many times as possible. Expressing gratitude IS a Christian spiritual practice. The Scripture verse, I Thessalonians 5:18, says we need to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

My first thought, every time I’ve read that verse through the years is: “How can God really expect me to give thanks in everything?” At this point I know I have to trust Him fully that He gives each of us the grace, strength, and courage to do this. He has given us the ability to be thankful so as not to become embittered even in our grief, especially in our world today.

So, to all of you dear good people who love Christ and may be discouraged at the year you’ve had, what a blessing to be able to enter into the season of Advent! How appropriate and wonderful that the theme for this first week is HOPE! Isaiah 9:6-7 says, “For unto us a child is born…These will be His royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace.” Thank goodness for the hope that the prophets foretold of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world as a baby.

King David was pretty discouraged in his song of Psalm 39:6-7, Out of 13 verses of claiming how life was grievous for him, right smack in the middle of his narrative, he says: “And, so Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” It’s interesting how many times in the Psalms, David describes over and over again that his HOPE is in the Lord.

Through all of Scripture, we are reminded that Christ is our HOPE for eternal life, for daily life of all things adverse, and joyful.

Advent comes from a Latin term that means “Coming Arrival.” To me, hope is always waiting for something or someone to arrive that will make life more fulfilling, peaceful, healing or rewarding. Hope is always in the dance of someone coming or something happening that will make life better or peaceful. How marvelous that Christ gives us an invitation and an opportunity to make the choice to move into this “dance” of HOPE with Him, THE PRINCE OF PEACE!

And, of course, I cannot forget the children in all of this. The Lord is giving all of us opportunity from this past year to help the children in our lives know what to do with their disappointments, sadness, anger, frustration, i.e. their grief that they are mourning outwardly sometimes in the way they may “act out.” We have a choice to teach them about having a spirit of gratitude in the midst of “what cannot be.” We have a responsibility to give them HOPE for today and for the future. Gratitude is a healing balm for them as well as for all of us. I encourage all of us to be creative in the ways we help them to be grateful, to share, and to have the wonderful hope that all comes through the presence of Christ.

The peace of Christ gives us hope. The hope that comes from our trust in Christ gives us peace. Blessed Advent to you all.