Preparing for Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas
A Time for Gratitude and Surrender
By The Rev. Herman Yoos
Several weeks ago, my almost 2-year-old grandson, Carter, attempted for the first time to say the Lord’s Prayer by himself. His prayer went like this:
“Our Father who art in heaven
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on
Earth as in heaven.
Give us this day that
the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Not bad for a 22 month old. Each night his parents share a Faith Five devotion, where they end by praying the Lord’s prayer together and making the sign of the cross on each other’s foreheads.
It is no wonder Jesus taught us “to let the little children come unto him.” It is no wonder Jesus taught us to pray like little children trusting, asking, seeking and knocking on God’s door for the things we need and can’t live without. It is no wonder that Jesus regularly took time away from the crowds and his disciples to pray and center himself in God’s loving purposes.
In his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster writes that prayer is never something we master where we are competent and in control, but insists prayer teaches us to calmly and deliberately surrender control and become incompetent.
Isn’t that why someone like Mother Teresa, who spent so much time every day in prayer, could write in her journals how often she felt inadequate and unable to pray? Isn’t that also why if we are honest we also struggle with prayer? For me, it is a relief to know that we can’t ever master prayer, but instead, prayer shapes and forms who we are and opens us ever so gradually to God’s loving purposes.
As we prepare for the Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas season, where it often seems that our lives become even busier and more complicated than usual, there are two prayer words or themes that are worth pondering.
The first is gratitude. Missionary Doctor Albert Schweitzer once said, “The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. Whoever has learned this knows what it means to live, and has penetrated the whole mystery of life – giving thanks for everything.” Another author, Melodie Beattie writes, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more.” Although we can never master prayer, this word gratitude helps to open us up to a deeper sense of God’s presence in the midst of all that we go through.
The second word to ponder is the word surrender. When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary announcing that she would give birth to God’s son, Mary’s ultimate response was surrender. “Let it be unto me according to your word.” Clearly Mary didn’t fully understand what was being asked of her by God. There was no way she could have anticipated all that the bearing of this child would mean for her or for humanity. She simply trusted God enough to say, “Have your way in my life.”
Gratitude and surrender are two expressions that go to the heart of the mystery of prayer. Sometimes gratitude can lead us to surrendering. Other times, surrender leads us to gratitude. They are clearly interconnected, as Mary’s Song of Praise proclaims when she goes to visit Elizabeth. “My soul magnifies the Lord.” What difference might it make over these next two months if we found ourselves daily seeking moments of gratitude and surrender? How might these expressions open us up to a deeper sense of God’s mystery and grace revealed in and through the Jesus, Emanuel, God’s Word made flesh?