What does Jesus want for Christmas? Gratitude – and not the kind Ms. Manners might insist upon, a polite thank-you note. Gratitude isn’t a mood that rises up (or doesn’t) spontaneously, the way craving for ice cream or a swirl of romantic desire might strike. Gratitude is a choice. I choose to look at life, and to be content, grateful, lucky if you will; or I choose to complain, I find fault, I want more (or newer stuff); I assume I “deserve.”
Gratitude is a discipline, a habit. Gratitude isn’t natural. We learn gratitude, over time. Children are taught gratitude, and so are grownups. I choose gratitude, then choose it again, and again, and after some time it turns out that I am a grateful person – and thus a person of peace, a person not easily thrown off balance, a person others enjoy being around, a person pleasing to Jesus.
To Jesus the teacher we ask, Can you show me how to be, inside? To the Spirit we pray, Lord, make me grateful.
Christmas wars against gratitude, as it’s all about getting more stuff, or the bogus gratitude that greedily is pleased we have so much. Genuine gratitude is grateful for what Jesus, Mary and Joseph had that first Christmas night: breath, love, stars shining, hope, mercy, affection, a roof over their heads, enough food for the day, a keen awareness of God, a visit from some neighbors, and even a little concert of angels singing.