Deep within the human heart is a desire for a Gallant Gratitude.   A gratitude that is so strong, it can stand up to and face the problems in life.   A gratitude that transcends circumstances.  A gratefulness that can celebrate the good… and sustain us through the bad.

We are annoyed by lack of gratitude in ourselves and our kids characterized by complaining, being irritable, ruining the festivities, and being down in the dumps and depressed.  These folks miss out on joy because they point out the painful reality of problems.

You know anyone like this…an employee who is never satisfied…a client who never says thanks.  We once had a friend from school come visit us.  She was a constant ungrateful Eeyore.  She stayed with us for 2 days, but it felt like 2 weeks…constant complaining, constant ungratefulness.    Perhaps you have a mother/father in a nursing home, and no matter how much you do to help while balancing your life/family demands,  the first thing you hear when you visit is, “It’s been a while….”  You think, why can’t they have a gallant gratitude that stands up to life’s circumstances?

Jerry has gallant gratitude. I read a true story about Jerry. He is the restaurant manager. He is always grateful. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would always reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!” Many of the waiters at his restaurant quit their jobs when he changed jobs; they would follow him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. Jerry shared his secret, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, I have two choices today. I can choose to be Grateful or I can choose to be Critical. Several years later, Jerry was robbed. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found quickly and rushed to the hospital. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body. About six months after the accident, when a friend asked him how he was, he replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins. Want to see my scars?”  “Weren’t you scared?” the friend asked. Jerry continued, “The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the Emergency Room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read ‘He’s a dead man.’  so I knew I needed to take action.”  “What did you do?” his friend asked.  “Well, there was a big nurse shouting questions at me,” said Jerry.  She asked if I was allergic to anything. I said,  ‘Yes,’ …the doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Bullets!’ Over their laughter, I told them, ‘I am choosing to live. Please operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.”

I want what Jerry has for Christmas.  🙂  However, we want a gallant gratitude that isn’t some naive Pollyanna approach to life either. Few want to be overly optimistic, syrupy “isn’t everything great this year?”  You know those people who seem disconnected to reality.  Pollyanna’s are nice, but seem to be naive, sometimes in denial, and often disappointed when everyone won’t or can’t get along.

Gallant gratitude contrasts two toys:  Chatty Cathy and G.I. Joe.

Chatty Cathy “Let’s Pretend Things Are Good.”

Do you remember Charming Chatty Cathy?  You could put little records in here and she’d give you pithy phrases about life… “playing with you is super fun.” “I Love you,” or “May I have a cookie?”   Or Talking PJ, Barbie’s friend,  doll that had a pull string and would say, “You’re the grooviest.”   You watch these old commercials and they remind you of both a more innocent, but also more naive approach to life.  There are lots of toys that say, “Let’s pretend things are good.” The Teddy Ruxfind, dolls, cuddly bears, etc.

Many of us feel like Christmas, the Bible, and Christians with their “happy happy songs” are naive Chatty Cathy’s. Many think that the Bible teaches, “Let’s pretend things are good…”

I had a friend who was skeptical about Christ followers. He’d come to church seeing them raise their hands and clap with all the evil in the world. He called them “happy clappys.”  Chatty Cathy-type thinking is not heroic, nor is Pollyanna thinking.  Why?  They cannot define reality. They never admit there is a serious problem.   It’s hard to be grateful for a mindset that says, “Let’s pretend things are good…”

In Bertrand Russel’s book “Why I Am Not A Christian…” he writes about the darkness of the human condition.  He tells us to think about how bad the problem of suffering and pain really is.  He doesn’t let Christians or Pollyannas squirm out of the problem of pain. He says, “This universe has great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying; If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, “there is injustice here, and the odds are that there is injustice everywhere.”  Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue, “The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance.” You would say, “Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment,” and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say, “Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so we must know the whole world is unjust.  Bertrand looks at the world and sees pain, and he sees Christianity offering naive Chatty Cathy bumper stickers and blind feelings and Christmas Carols about “hope and joy.”  He thought the Bible was teaching, “Let’s Pretend Things Are Good.”   Bertrand was saying, “We must know that the truth is that we will all die with the great death of the universe.  That’s the way it is.   What can you do about it?  Some options: kill yourself or enjoy yourself. If this life is all there is, then eat, drink, and be merry and love whoever you want.  But as you are doing this, try to forget that it’s all temporary, it’s all an illusion.    The universe is a cruel irrational place.

Bertrand Russel is begging for a hero who can define the problem of life… and it seems clear to him that Chatty Cathy Christians aren’t up to the task.  We, and Bertrand, are turned off by unhelpful well-meaning Chatty Cathys, but we are grateful for leaders and heroes who diagnose the problem before offering the solution.  When a manager comes in and says, “Things are broken. This person has to go. This system is off base,  etc.”   The employees say, “Thank you. Someone can define reality.  Someone recognizes the problem.”

Christmas:  “Let’s Realize Things Are Bad.”  Christmas teaches us that we have a Hero who can Define the Problem. A prophet from the Old Testament comes on the seen and defines the reality of our world in a famous “Christmas passage.”  He tells us that this world is broken and dark.

1 Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,  2 The people who walked in darkness  Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,  Upon them a light has shined.

Do you see what Isaiah is saying?  Our Hero comes to define the problem.  This life is full of gloom.   This life is filled with darkness.  This life will leave you walking through a land of the shadow of death.  Christmas teaches us that we will in a danger zone of darkness.

If you think Christianity is naive, and Pollyanna-like in its “Let’s join hands with old women” and sing about God and pretend there are no real problems, suffering, or evil in the world… I have some shocking news for you.   The Bible and the message of Christmas is incredibly realistic and shockingly honest about the darkness and pain of this world.   The Bible teaches that this world is so filled with darkness that when God came to be born, He was shut out. He was thrown out in the manure. He was shunned by his home town, hunted by a madman who was killing off all the children under two years old.  What!?  This is the Christmas story boys and girls.   Yes, a wonderful little children’s tale about infanticide, murder, malicious death, darkness, betrayal, and a malicious diabolical madman…Merry Christmas.  🙂    Notice in Isaiah how realistic the Bible is about the darkness of life. In contrast to Bertrand Russell’s perception, Christianity offers a HERO THAT DEFINES THE PROBLEM.

As many of us approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, we don’t feel happy, happy, happy… We are discouraged. Our families are broken. Our jobs are in jeopardy. Our dreams have been dashed. This is the first Christmas since mom or dad died, or I lost my child, or my husband or fiancé broke up with me…or a reminder that I am still single…or still can’t have kids…or still find myself unhappily married, etc.

Psychologists and Sociologists tells us that Christmas time is the most likely time of the year to experience depression. The suicide rate is higher during December than any other month, which tells us that Christmas depression should be taken quite seriously. Depression at Christmas time can be triggered by a multitude of things, such as losses, failures, and loneliness. These elements are exacerbated this time of year. People who have had deaths in the family or have experienced divorce or the loss of a child are more prone to depression, especially during the holiday season.

If you feel gloomy…  If you feel despair…  The message of Christmas tells you, “You are not crazy.  You are not out of your mind. There is something seriously wrong with the world.  There are evil doers living all around us.  Stealing, betraying, undermining.   If you have a sense that something is not right in the world (cancer, murder, injustice, etc.), the Bible says that you are stumbling upon the truth. We need a hero. We need a Savior. We need a gallant knight to come in and save the day because we can’t save ourselves.

Have you ever had someone come into your work environment and say out loud what everyone was thinking. Like, “We don’t communicate around here. There is a lot of political maneuvering and organizational chaos.  We must fix this before we can move forward!”   Something in you says, “Thanks for saying that.  It’s about time someone articulated the problem.”  You are thankful that the truth was spoken.   You say, “This person is a bold leader.” Now that we admit there are problems, we can actually get somewhere.  There is now a possibility for change.    You realize that this message is rooted in reality not some Chatty Cathy nonsense.

Do you deal with life like Chatty Cathy?   Many Christians I know try to deal with the darkness of life in a very unBiblical way.

  • They try to “hope for the best” or “try positive thinking” or “pretend it’s not bad” or say, “It could be worse…”   This is Chatty Cathy-type thinking that denies the pain,  denies the darkness, and is naive about the reality of suffering.
  • Also, there is the Chatty Cathy-type who tries to escape by pulling the string and escaping the darkness of life through TV, exercise, turning off the news, and pretending there aren’t children starving in the world, there aren’t children being kidnapped and sold into sex trade industries.  Do you get drunk, go to plays, and stay busy to “keeping your mind” off the inner and outer pain of this world?
  • You can pretend. Many read the book THE SECRET that says, “If you imagine it, it will happen.”  Imagine your bank account is full and it will be… good luck with that…that won’t work.   That’s Pollyanna false hope, instead you can respond with Christmas and say…

1 Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,  2 The people who walked in darkness  Have seen a great light;

“This world is broken, but NEVERTHELESS… I am grateful I know the one who will fix it.”

“My health is fading, but NEVERTHELESS… I am grateful I know the one who will give me a new body…”

“My job is uncertain, but NEVERTHELESS… I am grateful I know the The God of the universe came to choose me, adopt me, and my relationship with Him is certain, unchangeable, and secure.”

“I may have darkness, and it’s bad… But I am grateful that I know it is not permanent. It is not irreparable…”

“I may have the darkness of falling short of God’s standards… But God offers to make me right with him as a Gift from Christ.”

What does Gallant Gratitude look like?  In the TV show, BIG BANG THEORY, Sheldon looks at gift giving through the lens of good works.  You buy me a gift… And I give you a gift of equal value.    But one Christmas he is overwhelmed with a gift that he never could’ve imagined.

Christmas offers us a Gallant Gratitude because we have a Hero who defines the problem.  But we can also have a gratitude that comes from knowing that…


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