The first hymn I ever memorized was for an elementary school Thanksgiving concert. I liked the tune, but I didn’t have the foggiest idea what the words meant:

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing; he chastens and hastens his will to make known; the wicked oppressing now cease from distressing; sing praises to his Name; he forgets not his own. (Hymnal 1982 Hymn 433)

I’m a long way past fourth grade now, but If I’m perfectly honest, I’m still not completely sure what the lyrics are getting at. Sure, I can parse the words and tell you all about the hymn’s theology and history and biblical references, but however you approach it, it’s complicated.

What isn’t complicated is thanksgiving itself—thanksgiving, gratefulness, and gratitude. When we began our gratitude offering earlier this fall, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This is, after all, an easy time to focus more on all that is difficult and frightening and challenging than on the things we’re thankful for. But as we come to the end of a year that has been anything but easy, I find that I’m especially thankful for the statements of gratitude that so many of you have shared with me.

The list ranges from the silly to the sublime—from pizza, travel, trees, and scotch to family, faith, and life itself. The graphic that accompanies this note is an attempt to pull together many of the things we as a church community are grateful for into a single image. It’s been a joy to hear about all of it.

As we make our way through this season of Advent towards a Christmas that will look very different from Christmases of years past, may we remember that what we await is at once simple and extraordinary. And may we remain grateful for all the simple things that are, in the end, far greater than any challenge or loss we might face.

Advent blessings to you all!

Associate for Stewardship and Digital Ministry