In 2 Chronicles 20, on the verge of war we read, “After consulting the people [The Israelites], Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”
Like the Israelites, we often have to be reminded to give thanks to God. When I think about it, I wonder if we forget to give thanks because we take God’s love for granted because it endures forever, it is always there, and it doesn’t cost us anything.
While I was in seminary I purchased my first car on my own. It was not a fancy car, a 1996 Ford Explorer, but it was mine. I had worked hard for it and because of that I took care of it. I took care of it because I knew how much I had worked to get it. I knew how much it would cost to replace it. I never had the luxury of taking it for granted because from day one I had problems with it. Including dropping the transmission in it the first week I owned it… luckily I had a warranty. Every time I got in it and it started, I was grateful for a car that I could use. When things cost us something or they are unreliable we tend to not take them for granted. However, when things always work or they are always there, we tend to do the opposite. It happens with cars, employees, co-workers, our jobs, our health, our significant other, and yes-even God.
Often times in our lives we spend so much time dealing with the chaos and brokenness, that we sometimes neglect the things that deserve the most attention. It really becomes apparent over the holidays. During the holidays, not in the normal chaotic week, we bring out our “good” dishes. We unbox the real silver and use the nice place settings. Three or four times a year we use the “good” stuff, the rest of the time we use the not so “good” stuff. Why is it that the people we eat dinner with every day, those we care about the most, only get our “best” stuff once in a while? The answer seems to be that most days we are dealing with chaos and when we get home all we have to give those who are closest to us, those who are always there, those who love us the most, are the leftovers.
For some of us the same might be said about our relationship with God. We know God is always going to be there. We know that God is always going to love us. It is because of that we often find ourselves taking God for granted and only giving God our “Best” a fraction of the time.
So here is what I am proposing…What if this Advent we switched the paradigm? What if every day during Advent we used our “good” dishes every day with the ones we love. What if we give our best energy to our families and friends and not just the leftovers? And what if we make God the true reason for this season?
I propose that this can be accomplished in three simple steps.
1. Start your morning with prayer. Set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier than usual. Spend time with God. Even if you are struggling. Even if you are dreading facing the day. Say, “Hello. Good morning God. Please be with me today and guide my decisions in every way.”
2. Pause before responding. Holidays often make us frantic and words may at times escape us before thoughtful concern. I do not know what your family is like but when mine gets together teasing sometimes ensues. It is meant out of a comfortable feeling with each other but things quickly escalate when outdoing one another becomes the game. I suggest a pause and a gentle laugh. Let your words be true and sometimes the best way to do that is to be silent.
3. Most importantly, really look at your loved ones. I am not talking about a creepy stare that will make others wonder what you are doing. As your kids are playing, as your sitting around the table, take a theoretical step back and observe the simple beauty that is sometimes hard to recognize.
This holiday season let’s not simply give God one or two days of thanks, but every day. Let’s make every day a day that we say thank you to God, because in the chaos of our lives one thing is for certain, “God’s love endures for ever,” and that is something we should never take for granted. What is stopping us from giving our best to the most important things in our lives every day? Only us.