The boat I travel in is called Surrender.
My two oars are instant forgiveness and gratitude-
Complete gratitude for the gift of life.
I am thankful for the experience of this life,
For the opportunity to dance.
I get angry, I get mad,
but as soon as I remind myself to put my oars in the water, I forgive.
-Balbir Mathur

I have come to believe that the three major Christmas holidays are indeed, connected. First, at Thanksgiving, we review our lives, past and present, and are thankful for the people in it and the experiences either enjoyed or endured. All of the experiences blend to make us who we are. We think about our blessings, we post them on Facebook, we write about them, we share them around the Thanksgiving table before or while we eat. We prepare delectable pies, we roast a turkey if we are carnivores, we prepare special vegetables (in our family there always has to be rutabagas; the English are like that!), and the mashed potatoes and sometimes sweet potatoes are abundant! But when one stops to think about blessings (including the calorie-laden desserts) we have to really direct all of thanks to our Provider; our Heavenly Father.

Then comes Christmas, soon on the heels of Turkey/Gratefulness Day. Gifts galore, encased in glorious packaging, tied with fancy bows and other lovely things, are loaded beneath an evergreen tree. We have “shopped ‘til we dropped” or knitted, sewed, or otherwise created gifts for those we love. Sometimes we begrudgingly get a gift to be exchanged at work, church or a club–that’s not fun!

But think about it for a minute. Gifts, any gifts, are from God and should be given to others in the attitude with which God gifts us! He sacrificed more than a few bucks and far more than the cost of a diamond-studded whatever for your beloved. Would you want to sacrifice your child for 33 years, knowing that the end of His life included a heinous death on a rugged cross after hours of humiliation, beatings, while a mocking throng jeered? Of course you wouldn’t! On Christmas we celebrate the Greatest Gift EVER given–that of a Son to be carried in a womb and be born in poverty to a chosen couple. That gift of His life and His death guaranteed us life both in this lifetime and eternally. Is there a price we pay? Absolutely not, else it would not be a gift but something we purchased. All we have to do is reach out and take what He offers, just like on Christmas morning when the person playing “Santa” hands you one of the packages under the tree. Just accept the gift!

And then there’s New Years. For some, this is the craziest, wildest, most alcohol-imbibed holiday celebration of the year! Out with the old and in with the new! The New Year, that is. People probably get drunk more on that day (or should I say night?) that any other time of the year. I wonder if they are trying to forget the pain of the previous year or the pain of their lives as a whole?? What do you think? I fear that the influence of the evening’s drunkenness causes more pain rather than taking away the old stuff. What of the auto accidents that occur because folk drink and drive? What of the loss of tempers and the fights that ensue and the irrevocable damage as a result?

Think about it–this is exactly what is offered to every one of us! Total forgiveness! Out with the sin and guilt of the past, and a brand new slate handed to us for beginning again. Now that’s a gift! That’s what we ought to be MOST grateful for!

So yes, these three holidays are connected! It’s Thankfulness, Thankfulness, and Thankfulness. Thanks for all the blessings of everyday life, for the gift of God’s Son as the sacrifice for our messy lives, and for the fact that we can be forgiven and life can begin anew, with greater possibilities than ever before.

So, as you open packages on Christmas, be thankful for the greatest gift that was given wrapped in swaddling clothes, and thankful that because of Him, your life can have all you need and more as well as life eternal, peace, love and joy, and the promise of life eternal. And when you celebrate on New Year’s Eve, be thankful that you are given forgiveness and offered newness of life. Maybe that’s the message to share on New Year’s Eve–what do you think?

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