Although celebrating advent is a fairly new thing in Baptist church circles in Scotland and is not yet celebrated in all churches, it is celebrated in most homes. For the last few years I have received an Advent Calendar from the Scottish based charity Mary’s Meals. It is not the usual calendar with its chocolate filled boxes hidden behind bright coloured doors, but a poster with a reflection for every day. Centred on the themes of hope, peace, joy and love, the poster challenges my consumerist influenced heart, by drawing me into Scripture, stories of life-giving food, opportunities to give financially, and time and guidance for my prayers.
Of all the wonderful suggestions, one strikes me as being a real help to combat the constant struggle I feel at this time of year to get more “stuff”. It comes on Monday 28th November: “Start an Advent Blessings Jar: Write down something you are thankful for each day and place in jar. Read out all your blessings on Christmas Day and thank the Lord.”
What could me more fitting on the day we choose to celebrate the incarnation than to spend time remembering, alongside Jesus, the many other gifts that flow from the Father heart of God. I am already imagining on Christmas day opening up the jar filled with pieces of paper placed there by my wife and I, our lodger, people who have visited us during the advent season, neighbours who will descend on Christmas Eve morning, finding our Christmas day filled with potentially a hundred or more reasons for giving thanks.
Among these reasons will be our Baptist family. As I reflected back on the Assembly, the highlight for me was simply being with that gathered congregation from all over Scotland, catching up with friends I have made as I travel and hearing from people I was meeting for the first time.
This advent I invite you to join me in cultivating an “attitude of gratitude.” You may even consider it to be a counter cultural act of witness. Let’s put off the stereotypical view of dour, penny pinching, complaining Scottish people and witness to the generosity and thankfulness placed in our hearts by the transforming presence of the Spirit of God.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7 NIV