The Advent of Gratitude

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“What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him (Luke 1:66).”

We live in an age of instant gratification. We no longer have to wait long for much. With a few voice commands and screen swipes, we can have groceries, meals, apparel, furniture, and gadgets delivered to our doors within days, if not minutes. Instant gratification is an assault on gratitude and breeds contempt for thankfulness. Learning that a delay is not a denial can be gratifying and breed hope, joy, love, and peace. Waiting, then, is the adventure through which we learn patience is a virtue.

Advent is the season of waiting, not for gifts and presents, but for remembering the birth of Jesus. Luke’s Gospel calls to remembrance the birth of Jesus’ relative, John the Baptist. John’s conception and birth were also miraculous. John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were childless and “getting on in years” when an angel appeared to Zechariah. The angel was Gabriel and proclaimed:

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John (Luke 1:13).

This news left Zechariah literally speechless until the day of John’s birth.

From Zechariah and Elizabeth, we learn that praying is the praxis that teaches us how to wait. Praxis requires action and reflection. A prayer entails acting and reflecting on God’s word while waiting for God’s response. As Jesus teaches, the pray-er must learn to ASK: ask, seek, and knock. In time, they who ask receive, seek find, and knock has doors opened for them.

The question Zechariah and Elizabeth’s relatives ask them is instructive: “What then will this child become?” Herein lies one of the central parental dilemmas. There are nine months of waiting and praying for the child’s birth before a lifetime of acting and reflecting on what the child will become. Parenting is punctuated by waiting and praying, acting and meditating, instant and delayed gratification.

The origin of “parent” is in a Latin root that means “bring forth.” We discover the advent of gratitude when we bring forth a child or even an idea, concept, dream, vision, or goal. We follow our days of acting and reflecting on a dream with months of waiting to see what it will become. Even in this context, they that learn to wait also learn to ask, seek, and knock.

Waiting is not a passive process; instead, it is an adventure through which we experience hope, joy, love, and peace. These are the virtues of Advent. The Advent journey both ends and begins in a manger with a child born “holy, meek, and mild” as Dottie Peoples’ lyrics in her song, “Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child” remind us. Delays and denials teach us to give thanks. Thankfulness is all about practicing an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is an appropriate response when knowing the hand of the Lord is with you.

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