“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:4-7
I am in “shock and awe.” I say this because I am shocked at how the time has passed. It’s hard for me to believe that the summer months have gone and we are well into the fall season. This week I was looking at my calendar, planning ahead for Thanksgiving and Christmas already, and coming to the realization that we are in the homestretch of the calendar year. As I looked at the calendar, I was struck by two facts. The first is that Thanksgiving is coming fast, it is barely five weeks away, the last Thursday in November. Obviously this is unusual as it is very late for most of us to celebrate the holiday. The Sunday following Thanksgiving is the first day of Advent, being December 1st. This is always a busy time for church and for families. Are you ready; are you prepared? This year I want to urge everyone to take a proactive approach and attitude before the demands of the season sweep you away. I am urging us all to be prepared spiritually ahead of time for the upcoming season. First we need to think about Thanksgiving.
Every year, I write a reminder of the necessity of properly defining the term “thanksgiving.” Why? It is because this is a lesson and an attitude we need to remember, not just at this time of the year, but throughout the whole year. Let’s take some time to remind ourselves what we give thanks for and why we give thanks.
I knew a man in my church family in New Jersey who did not celebrate “Thanksgiving.” I knew him well enough for him to share the reasons why. As I would find out, it was purely a historical reaction based on his heritage; he was Native American. In his opinion, “that holiday” was not the history of his people. His specific objection was with the assignment of Thanksgiving to a specific day in American history, in 1621, as the source of celebration. I am not here to argue the pros and cons of his point, or to debate Revisionist Historical Interpretation, but to point out that his reaction illustrates the common misunderstanding of thanksgiving as “just one day” or the notion of thanksgiving as an “American Holiday.” Days of “thanksgiving” have occurred numerous times in American history, and throughout world history, with the specific reason to give thanks to God.
How do we reclaim thanksgiving as it is intended to be celebrated biblically? Often at the thanksgiving table, we share what we are thankful for. This is a good start, but to capture this true meaning of thanksgiving, we need to dig deeper as the Body of Christ. The things we give thanks for should be our proclamations of faith the Holy God who provides us salvation through Jesus Christ. This can be done through verbalization or silently through prayer, but it needs to be done daily. In other words, we should praise His Holy Name!
One author, writing about the American experience through the holiday of Thanksgiving, noted that it is a reminder of the important things in life, even while we are in the midst of uncertainty. While he did not elaborate on what those important thing are, I think he was on to something that is more related to the Christian faith than the generic expression of faith as a nation.
In October, when we worshipped at the Wabash & Erie Canal Park in Delphi, we discussed the concept of thanksgiving. We noted that in Jesus’ encounter with the Ten Lepers, all of them had the faith to ask and believe in Jesus’ ability to heal them. But after the healing, only one, a hated Samaritan, came back with any expression of thanks. Which shows that even a believer can forget to praise and thank God. How do we change that attitude?
Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was written during a time of testing for Paul and the church. Written while he was in prison, Paul faced hardship and uncertainty, yet his words were filled with joy and thanksgiving. The believers in Philippi were also under great pressure to conform, and under great persecution for their faith. Yet Paul’s words to them exude confidence and trust in the power of the gospel. How was Paul able to do that?
How do we truly become thankful? I t develops through daily prayer and spiritual devotions. It comes from learning and applying the attributes that belong to you from scripture; your identity in Christ! Trust the Spirit of God to open your eyes to fully enjoy knowing Christ daily. That’s the choice we make every day, to enjoy the opportunity to grow into the image of Christ. Open your eyes to the blessings that God has given us through Jesus Christ. Be Thankful!
Your Thankful Servant in Christ,