Some of you may remember that last year I started an Advent garden. I found it such a stimulus to my daily meditations that I encouraged you to join me in the practice this year. I have replanted the garden, repainted my signs and started with fresh candles. It now sits on my office desk as a reminder of the season. I am lighting the gratitude candle each day this week as a focus for my prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving. Next week I will add the hope candle then the peace candle, followed by joy and in the last week of Advent the candle that represents love.
I am also working on a Come to the Manger Wreath and am finding not just that it is drawing me closer to God but also to those whose photos I am adding to the wreath. I hope to unveil the wreath, at least in its initial stages tomorrow.
All of us need a focus for our reflections and prayers at this season and I think it is particularly helpful to have some symbol of the season that decorates our workplace or that travels with us. Here in the U.S. we are constantly barraged with images of the consumer culture and with Black Friday only a few days away the intensity of the onslaught is overwhelming. Images of our faith refocus us. When we have created those images ourselves they are even more powerful.
It is good for us to remember at this season that happiness does not come from what we have. According to Catherine Sanderson, the James E. Ostendarp Professor of Psychology happiness comes from exercise, giving to others and getting out into nature. Her number one recommendation for increasing happiness is to keep a gratitude journal something that I think is well worth emphasizing as we head towards Thanksgiving and then into Black Friday.
She also suggests that we figure out our strengths and find ways to use them, another great suggestion for the holiday season. What are the strengths you have that can be used at this season to bless and encourage the lives of others? Finding ways to use our time and our resources at this season to reach out to others is far more satisfying then spending it on ourselves. The success of my post What About Simplifying This Christmas tells me that I am not the only one who is disgusted with the commercialization of the season.
What are you doing to make this a more Christ centred, less commercial Christmas? What are the symbols you are using to focus your heart and your life on what really matters? I would love to hear from you. Our sharing so often helps others find a focus too.