My wife and I were married three weeks ago, which means that we’ve spent a lot of time recently writing thank you notes. According to some etiquette experts, a newly married couple has up to one year to write them. According to my wife and my mother (far better authorities on the matter, by the way) that is completely false. We are aiming to get our notes out within a month of the wedding.
What has been interesting to me, though, is how dreaded this task appears to be by so many newly married couples. A quick search on wedding note etiquette found ways to order pre-printed cards, impersonal sample texts to hand copy onto a note, and more than a handful of couples trying to justify abandoning the tradition all together. And I get that some nights, twenty cards in, it can feel like a lot. But I also wonder if something greater is at work here. I wonder if sometimes the very task of saying “thank you” begins to feel, well, like a task? Gratitude becomes perfunctory, and a social nicety. It doesn’t hold the same joy and meaning that it could if we really meant it.
Sometimes our prayer life feels like that too. Giving thanks before a meal feels routine. Saying “thank you” to God when something incredible happens feels like an afterthought. And one thing I’ve noticed with church people is that when we gather together and are asked to lift up both prayer requests and thanksgivings, the thanksgivings are often outnumbered five to one.
This time of year the thank you notes we are thinking about have to do with the presents we are about to receive. But, maybe this is the exact season when our gratitude for God could be expressed all the more? In the beauty and wonder of Advent, I often feel as though we are drawn closer to God. The light surrounds us, and we feel that something big is about to happen. So, in this time of anticipation, and wonder, maybe it’s as good a time as any to say thank you? Not for what we will receive. Not for what is coming. But for the gift that we have now.
True, technically we may still have plenty of time, but there is a joy in saying “thank you” because you want to, and not because you have to, and the time is always right for that.