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The light of gratitude E-mail
Opinion
Wednesday, 29 November 2017 10:04

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MY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron



This time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is usually hectic but it’s also one of the most beautiful times of the year. On our drive home after celebrating with family, it was a little surprising to see how many folks already have decorated for Christmas. 

Of all seasons, Christmas is the time for lights – on the tree, outlining houses and businesses - and they signify warmth and cheer. The baby in a manger was prophesied as “a great light” (Isaiah 9:2), announced with a brilliant star (Matthew 2:2-10), and when he grew up he declared himself “light of the world” (John 8:12). Paul later declared that we as followers of Jesus – children of God – would appear as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15). 

Stars don’t make any noise; they just light the way. They appeal to folks, inspire thoughts of grandeur and cosmic expanses. I came across a quote from Lance Witt with Replenish Ministries, which seemed to capture the essence of gratitude and light. “When the grace flows in the gratitude fills up and the generosity flows out!” Grace is a gift, given freely, blessing we can’t earn and which we don’t deserve, lavished by God on his children. 

Learning to be grateful for our undeserved gifts leads to three benefits. First, we gain perspective over our losses and rise above them to focus on all the things we do have. Many verses in the Bible that pertain to thankfulness begin listing problems, but end with “nevertheless”, or “yet” or “in everything” we give thanks. A spirit of gratitude despite setbacks has benefits for health, wellbeing, energy, social connections, and even finances. 

Gratitude offers protection from spiritual heart disease – it’s an antidote to criticism, bitterness or materialism. Paul wrote, “There must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4). 

Finally, gratitude brings us into an awareness of God’s presence. Before the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to Joseph and explained an ancient prophecy from Isaiah, “‘they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us’” Matthew 1:23). The daily infilling of God’s presence is available to us through the spirit of Christ. 

Our family has always loved baseball, but for several years after 1995 we stopped going to games and didn’t watch or listen to them. We were making a silent protest of what someone called “millionaires arguing with billionaires” – players’ and owners’ disagreements over contracts. A good baseball read would be a devotion by Max Lucado about the privilege of playing as a replacement, during the strike year, in his book “In the Grip of Grace.” 

I also own an autographed copy of Buck O’Neill’s, “I Was Right on Time.” It’s a positive book, and I can still hear his deep Southern drawl in interviews about his time with the Kansas City Monarchs. During those years blacks weren’t allowed in many hotels, restaurants, or the Major Leagues, yet the players enjoyed each other and the privilege of playing baseball. 

Then as Witt explained, generosity flows from gratitude. Three Gospel writers (Mark 14, Luke 7, John 12) tell the story of a woman of ill repute who poured out costly ointment on Jesus’ feet. She had received forgiveness for “her sins, which are many” and in response her gift far outweighed the hospitality of the homeowner. 

Like that woman, or the old Negro League members, or the 1995 replacement players, those of us on God’s team don’t deserve to be here – but we feel blessed and fortunate just to be a part. Only as we turn away from grumbling to gratitude will our generosity and light draw others to the Light of the World that we’ve received through grace. This season, try keeping a journal each day of things you’re thankful for, and witness the light of gratitude. 

 

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