By Pastor Tracey Leslie
I grew up in a preacher’s family. My dad always said grace at the table. He had one line persistent in all of his prayers; he always gave thanks to God for the blessings of home, health and happiness. Those words were especially celebratory when the extended family – grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins – joined us for holidays. The year that my dad retired, my mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. After my mom’s death, I do not ever recall hearing my father pray that trilogy of thanksgiving again. I missed that prayer and longed for it but certainly understand how hard it was for him.
My husband (a professor) and I do not have children and are often not with our extended family for the holidays. As a result of our ministry, we have moved many times over the years. But this year I decided to redeem those prayerful words of my dad (now deceased) by writing my own prayer of Thanksgiving and redefining those themes of home, health and happiness:
By Jeremy Grossman
I LOVE Christmas-- “lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved” as described in the now classic 1983 film, A Christmas Story. As an adult, I’ve become a student of the holiday, learning as much about it as possible, from Dickens to fruitcake. If it has something to do with Christmas, I probably can provide you with some extended commentary on the matter: books, movies, television specials, decorations, traditions, and of course, music.
The truth is, as much as I LOVE Christmas, I also struggle with it. Whether it’s getting caught up in the holiday hype or trying to relive “an old-fashioned Christmas” that never really was, I often miss the point. I get caught up trying to manufacture memories instead of enjoying Christmas as it comes—as it FIRST came—a gift of simple yet deep love in contrast to a world of chaos.
As I seek to remember the simplicity of Christmas and the gifts of a humble heart, I think of one of my favorite Christmas songs, “The Friendly Beasts” (sometimes called “The Gifts They Gave”). I had never encountered the song until I heard it on a Garth Brooks’ Christmas album (on cassette to boot! It was the early 1990s). Like many of our Christmas traditions, the song is light on Biblical accuracy and heavy on sentiment, but the theme is sound: each animal traditionally associated with the Nativity speaks of the unique gift he or she was able to offer the newborn Jesus. The gifts are simple, but sincere, and include material items, gifts of creativity, and acts of service. In this spirit, I will do my best to reflect simply but deeply on what I can give to God and others this Christmas and the whole rest of the year.
Likewise, our theme for Advent at Trinity this year is centered on gifts and giving: what gifts has God granted you? What gifts can you offer in service to God and your neighbors? Pastor Tracey will be delivering several sermons on this theme during Advent, and I will be leading another discussion group for Sunday School starting on November 5, centered on the topic “The Gifts That We Bring.” The group will meet for six sessions, with some special activities incorporated along the way, at 9:15 in the parlor conference room. Childcare will be provided and refreshments will be served. All are welcome—please join us.
Check out the Gifts That We Bring study schedule on the Adult Ministry page and stay after the study for worship and our Advent sermon series, "This Holiday Season...Unwrap Your Gift."
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