Every Thanksgiving, I take time to list all the people, events and other things in my life from the previous year, for which I am grateful. This allows me to enter into Advent with a sense of gratitude and hope for the year to come. As in past years I conducted my personal Thanksgiving ritual. However, with the polarization in Congress, the strong clear message of the Occupy Movement that our economic system is fundamentally flawed, the ongoing “head in the sand” attitude of both parties unwilling to address the needs of 12 million undocumented immigrants living in our country, the ongoing threat of gun violence, and the desperate needs for reform in urban public schools, not to mention my own ongoing health struggles, I have found it hard to be thankful.
Yet today, as I approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus, I am reminded that gratitude is a choice not a consequence. I am reminded that each day I can choose to be thankful for the blessings and the challenges in my life. Even though I do not always live up to the values I espouse, I am drawn to a vision of the world articulated in Mary’s Magnificat and rehearsed every Christmas:
God has performed mighty deeds with his arm
And has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts
God has brought down rulers from their thrones
But has lifted up the humble
God has filled the hungry with good things
But has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1.51-53)
No, the vision of a “great reversal” of power and fortune that Mary puts forth is not fulfilled in our time, nor in any time. Yet it is the promise and hope that my faith in Christ gives me and makes me realize who and whose I am in the great scheme of time and history.
So despite my frustrations social, political and personal, I choose this day to be grateful for Life, for friends, for a sense of purpose, and for fellow strugglers like so many of you who read this blog, who like me live into the vision of the world Mary saw with the birth of her son. May we continue to work for a safer, more just, more humane world, even as we give thanks for the lives we have today.