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Chaplaincy

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
-- James 1:17-18

Thanksgiving at Christmas

The problem with Christmas in America, she argued, is that it’s based on gifts. In her eyes, which have seen more of the world than mine, the greatest gift is spending time with family and friends. She accused the gift-giving culture of training the mind to expect happiness and luxury. Not knowing how to productively respond in the moment, I stood up and asked her if she wanted something nice to drink.

I feel compelled to acknowledge, as a proud American, that Christmas for my family and for many others is a spiritually beautiful time of year. We hug each other, we enjoy nice food together, and we become more aware of our blessings. And, yes, we give each other presents. And, yes, these presents are often more than we deserve or desire.

This Christmas, the most meaningful gift that I can give is thoughtful thanks:

  1. I give thanks to my supportive family. Nothing that I do now would be possible without their support and love.

  2. I give thanks to my close friends for their supportive and fun-loving spirits. It has been no mistake that many of my happiest moments have been at Hamilton College.

  3. I give thanks to the professors and staff of Hamilton College, who all have (however directly or indirectly) allowed me to get to know myself in an academic community of incredible vibrancy.

  4. I give thanks to everyone who has supported me in my search for a career based on personal values and hard work. I am especially thankful for what I have learned from distinguished professionals from around the world.

  5. I give thanks to the janitor in my dormitory at Hamilton. (And everyone on my floor knows who he is.) He works hard. He cares. He is a member of the Hamilton community. I’d invite him to my graduation, if he didn’t have to work on that day!  

Dag Hammarskjöld, a role model of mine who was the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, described my sentiments perfectly in a passage from his book of spiritual reflections entitled Markings: “For all that has been — Thanks. For all that shall be — Yes.” I would write more in this reflection, but I’d hate to spoil you.

-- Jon Piskor ‘13