Advent, meaning “the coming,” is a time when we wait expectantly. Like Mary, we celebrate the coming of the Christ child, what God has already done. And we wait in expectation of the full coming of God’s reign on earth and for the return of Christ, what God will yet do. But this waiting is not a passive waiting. It is in an active waiting. As any expectant mother knows, this waiting also involves, preparation, exercise, nutrition, care, prayer, work; and birth involves pain, blood, tears, joy, release, community. It is called labor for a reason. Likewise, we are in a world pregnant with hope, and we live in the expectation of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. As we wait, we also work, cry, pray, ache; we are the midwives of another world. (Shane Claiborne: Common Prayer)
Gratitude is a poignant practice, and is one of the ways we work to prepare for the coming of our Lord. Thus, it should hold a place in our day-to-day lives. Research in the field of Positive Psychology suggests that consciously acknowledging the things we are grateful for yields a cornucopia of mental, physical and spiritual benefits- e.g., a greater sense of subjective well-being (increased sense of happiness), less stress, a higher propensity towards pro-social behavior (you become more loving), etc.
Why should “secular” research inform our spiritual practice?
Throughout my educational journey in the fields of biblical studies, theology and psychology, I have found that the tenets of the social and physical world deeply mirror or cooperate with spiritual tenets. Therefore, we understand gratitude at a visceral level. We feel its life-giving presence stir us toward goodness.
When we consciously practice gratitude, we make ourselves aware of things we very much appreciate, but almost never notice, those things which most deserve our gratitude – the crisp crunchiness of leaves beneath your feet in early winter; a tender glance of admiration from a loved one. It is for this reason I’d like to invite you all to keep a gratitude journal with me during this 2013 season of Advent. Let us give thanks for the enumerable gifts we are given each day. For when our response to all is gratitude, all things become gifts.
Here’s a fun app to help you record your gratitude: https://itunes.apple.com/fr/app/gratitude-tree/id671754029?l=en&mt=8