Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer, 2007 version from bcponline.org
In my head I realized that I have been calling 2020 the season of the crow: loud, braying, dull dark. And I have been thinking these last few days that such an attitude makes it hard to be thankful. Last Sunday I was thankful that we were celebrating the last Sunday of the liturgical year, and that meant that SOMETHING in 2020 was coming to an end, and that a new liturgical year was getting ready to dawn. Of course, texts about apocalypses aren’t the most comforting, which is often how Advent combines readings about the first and the second comings of Jesus, but at least there is the reminder that we are moving through some of the most difficult days of the year. How fitting that it is during this time that we are called to celebrate thankfulness.
And this year a lot of people are having an especially hard time being thankful, what with pleas to limit the gathering of family and friends during this worst-ever surge in the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s easy to focus on what we want, especially on what we want and cannot safely and in good conscience have. Open your eyes and look around you, and ask yourself: who around me would I endanger just so that I can have one more person at this table? Because it has come down to this exact kind of question.
Too often this year we have been lulled into a false sort of thankfulness, or we look for a showy kind of miracle for which to be thankful. The poet Marilyn Nelson offers a wonderful series of poems about a character called, “Abba Jacob.” One of her books, The Fields of Praise, contains a poem called “Abba Jacob and Miracles.” Various brethren come and ask Abba Jacob if various unusual occurrences constitute a miracle: including visits from dead kin and strange rainbow mists in the sky. Abba Jacob listened to this for hours without comment. Finally, he says, “Big deal. Miracles happen all the time. We’re here, aren’t we?” The late poet Jane Kenyon embodied the same kind of gratitude in her beautiful poem “Otherwise.”
We’re here, aren’t we? And isn’t that the real miracle that undergirds all the other miracles we encounter every day? We are here, and we are called to embody the abundant and generous love of Christ with joy and gratitude. THAT’S a miracle in this day and age.
Here’s the thing: when it comes to miracles, I am convinced that there are three kinds of people in this world.
First, there’s those who deny the existence of miracles, and see the world ticking along, predictable and dull and maybe even cruel, every day.
Then there are those who only use that word for the really big stuff, like the tumor that rather than growing blinks out of existence and, despite all probability, disappears, or the tornado that skips your block, or adult child who apologizes to her parents for the hell they inflicted upon you during their teenaged years. For these people, miracles are when the odds are defied and the laws of nature get leapfrogged.
Then there are those who see miracles everywhere.
I’d like to ask you to consider being one of the proud members of the third group.
This poem, and the prayer I’ve included from the book of Common Prayer above, reminds us that miracles surround us, but we miss them most of the time. We make it harder on ourselves to see the abundance of miracles that crowd around us because we too often look for the dazzling, the shockingly out of place.
Today, of all days, may we give thanks for the quotidian miracles of each day, each breath, each worthwhile task that fill sour days with purpose, each lesson we’ve taken away when something didn’t go as we planned. Perhaps this is the thanks that we should be giving.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts daily prayers, meditations, and sermons at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.