Gratitude and Buzz Lightyear

It was Christmas morning and I hovered over my gifts. There were treasures hidden just below the surface of that Rudolph wrapping paper and no amount of tape could hold me back! Christmas felt even more special than usual this year because my big brother had bought me a present for the first time! I had gotten presents from him before, but they had always been funded by mom and dad. This year, Peter had acquired the presents himself and I just knew that the gift he was going to give his favorite little brother was going to be epic. Peter was loaded…he got paid 5 bucks every time he mowed the lawn. Surely that was enough for a new Playstation or an iPod. The wrapping paper was torn, the box opened, and out spilled a package of glow-in-the-dark stars for my ceiling and a bottle of Buzz Lightyear shampoo. The words of gratitude that should have come out of my mouth were replaced by the utterance, “I don’t like it!” My mother reprimanded me while using my first and middle names, so I quickly realized I had made a serious blunder. I tried to backtrack and say how much I loved the gift! I told Peter I would put those exact same items on my Christmas list next year and probably the year after as well (which I did…my guilt ran DEEP)! I said and did everything I could to convince Peter that I was grateful for his gifts to me, but the damage had been done and I knew it. My gratitude rang hollow.

It’s hard to fake gratitude. We can try with words alone, but if those words are not a true reflection of our heart posture, it’s hard for them to not ring hollow. The heart of gratitude is an internal attitude that overflows into an external response and being grateful is a natural response to things that are meaningful to us. It’s pretty hard to keep real gratitude to ourselves. It is eager to dance into the world around us and lift up the hearts of others. An attitude of gratitude has often been a struggle for me and God has been working on my capacity for gratitude this year. Like most things God is working in us, the work of gratitude is an inside-out equation. God lovingly and patiently redirects me from paths of cynicism and reductive ingratitude by reminding my heart of the scope of His love for His people and how much He means to me. God faithfully helps all of us to realize the depth of His goodness, remember what He has done for us, and recognize what He is doing presently so that our internal posture of gratitude for Christ and the life He has given to us can overflow into others as an external response that points all of us back towards the importance of a meaningful relationship with Jesus.

As we look forward to the celebration of our Savior’s birth and the greatest gift we have ever received, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read Psalm 100 this week. Let it remind you to make a commotion for Jesus, to live with a spark of Joy, to rest in your belonging with Christ, to enter into God’s presence with thanks, and let gratitude, brought to life by the goodness of God, flow out of you and into the lives of others!

P.S. If someone gives you glow-in-the-dark stars and Buzz Lightyear bubble bath this year, those are amazing gifts and the person who gave them to you is probably very cool.