The day we’ve been preparing for has arrived.
The gifts under the tree might be the perfect ones to make your loved ones smile. Or, they might not. They might be handcrafted by a local artisan or shipped from a factory halfway around the world. They might be forgotten by New Year’s or cherished for years to come. You might get exactly what you were hoping for, or maybe not.
Either way, give thanks for your loved ones, gathered close or celebrating far away. Give thanks for the hands that stitched the sweater you unwrap, the worker who took that plastic toy off the assembly line, the retail clerk working minimum wage to sell it.
The house into which you welcome family and friends may be big or small, clean or dirty, tidy or messy. The house you visit for a holiday gathering may be spacious and orderly, and it may make you jealous.
Give thanks for a roof over your head, a table around which to gather, a soft bed on which to rest. Give thanks for the life that takes place in your home, causing all that mess. Give thanks for the hospitality of friends and family and the time you have together.
You may cook the most magnificent meal you’ve ever prepared. Or you might burn the pies. Or maybe you don’t have to cook at all! The kids may sit politely and try everything on their plate, or (more likely, in my case) they will declare it all disgusting and eat cereal instead.
Give thanks for the food, the hands that prepared it (especially if they’re your own!) and everyone involved in getting it to your plate: the farmer who planted it, the worker who picked it, those who process and ship it, the clerks in your local store. Give thanks for the proximity of your grocery store.
You may have “the best Christmas ever,” filled with joyful memories. Or perhaps you are having the saddest and loneliest Christmas ever. Your heart may be heavy with grief or depression. Maybe church feels like a sham and Jesus-talk makes you roll your eyes.
Give thanks for any small thing that brings you joy. Give thanks that God is close to the brokenhearted and was born as a baby called Immanuel, “God with us,” to be even closer. Whether or not you find the Bible story of Jesus’ birth believable or meaningful, know that it is a story of light coming into darkness.
Whatever today holds for you, find the kernels of joy wherever you can. Notice and cherish the things for which you can give thanks.
And let your heart be light.