Happy Thanksgiving from the clergy & staff of Plymouth!
Gratitude is foundational to our faith, and more than a single-day event. Yet taking one day to focus completely on being grateful allows us to Go Deeper in our thankfulness. (Note: the church office will be closed Thursday, November 28 and Friday, November 29.)
Then we transition to Advent, our preparation for the Nativity of Christ.
We encourage you to do what your life permits to set aside Advent from the lure of holiday madness. Consider doing the bulk of your shopping this weekend (including not only Black Friday/Cyber Monday but Small Business Saturday), so that you can look forward to the arrival of "Love, the Guest."
Here are some Advent resources you may choose to explore:
Advent Calendars to Color (from Praying in Color) - Meditative, individual/family (time commitment variable by day)
#AdventWord - Worldwide, participatory/social media (small time commitment): a global, online Advent calendar. Each day from the first Sunday of Advent through Christmas Day, #AdventWord offers meditations and images to inspire and connect individuals and a worldwide community of believers to the themes of Advent. At the link you can sign up for daily email or follow them on Facebook or Instagram. You may choose to participate by posting of photo that captures that word for you (please tag our Plymouth Facebook or Instagram pages so we can share them with others in the church), or just let the images inspire you. A ministry of Virginia Theological Seminary.
Advent Conspiracy - Worldwide, social justice + worship focused (time commitment your choice): "Over a decade ago, a few pastors were lamenting how they’d come to the end of an Advent season exhausted and sensing they’d missed it – the awe-inducing, soul-satisfying mystery of the incarnation... drowning in a sea of financial debt and endless lists of gifts to buy.... An overwhelming stress had overtaken worship and celebration.The time of year when focusing on Christ should be the easiest was often the hardest.... So, in 2006, three pastors, Chris Seay, Greg Holder, and Rick McKinley, decided to try something different. They called it the Advent Conspiracy movement, and came up with four tenets—Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All—to guide themselves, their families, and congregations through the Christmas season."
May a blessed Advent be yours.
Plymouth Clergy & Staff
Growing up, my extended family alternated who hosted Thanksgiving Dinner. It was a dance between mom’s side and dad’s side, grandparents hosting and aunts and uncles hosting. The years my parents hosted were a mixed bag. The best part was getting all the leftovers filling our fridge, the worst being all the prep work that went into the meal. My mom is an amazing woman, but you don’t mess with her when company is coming over. My brother and I would take turns hiding from mom as she tried to get us to help out. He was better at hiding than me so I got a lot of extra chores. Not that I’m still bitter about that...
After all the hours of cleaning, baking, cooking and setting the table we would sit down to eat together. My mom would always marvel and bemoan how much work went into the meal and how quickly we all gobbled it up. All that prep and we’re ready for our post-dinner naps in 20 minutes.
This hectic pace is how the holiday season seems to go. It is lots of work, planning, traveling, stress etc. -- and it's over in the blink of an eye. The radio is already playing the songs reminding us "it’s the most wonderful time of the year" yet sometimes it is hard to enjoy the season. Between the to-do lists, decorating, shopping, holiday parties, travel, end of semester exams, short days and long nights the time between now and New Years can feel rather overwhelming. In all the hustle and bustle it is the slow moments that we tend to find the most meaning.
Holiday comes from an old English word meaning Holy Day. In the midst of the busyness it’s really hard for me to remember that. These are holy days, holy moments of love, gratitude, and community. Too often the Holy Spirit is crowded out of these days by the busyness of the season.
I wonder what it would look like if we gave ourselves permission to slow down this holy-day season. What would it look like if we gave ourselves permission to let go of some of the to-do-list? What would happen if we didn’t worry about the food or the decorations being as perfect as Grandma would have done them? (My Grandma Joyce could beat Martha Stewart in a decorating or baking competition any day; I did not inherit that skill). What if we spent less energy on presents and more energy being present?
This holiday season, starting with dinner on Thursday, I’m going to intentionally slow down and be more mindful. I am going to give myself permission to enjoy the season and not spend all my energy preparing for it. I will spend more time connecting with friends and family and less time chasing the latest sale or instagram decorating trend.
How will you spend your holiday season? How will you put the holy back in your holidays?
Grace and Peace,
Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth, Mandy Hall began her ministry at Plymouth in August of 2014. She is originally from Michigan where she followed her call to ministry to become a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. Her passion is helping young people grow in faith in creative and meaningful ways. Read more.