As November as arrived, many are pushing right ahead to Christmas. Stores are full of trees and lights and other commercial trappings that signal the season. But are we missing something here? Thanksgiving was originally created as a holiday to take time out and express gratitude to God for the blessings he provided in the year. It is set at harvest time, because that’s when we see the results of our labor and his gracious provision. Thanksgiving is under a bit of an attack when we ignore it to get to our peppermint flavored lattes and jingle bell filled music. Add to that the cultural novelty of rebranding it “Friendsgiving”, and the idea of being thankful to God can get lost altogether. We already have enough of that.
What would it be like instead to make thanksgiving more than a day on the calendar and a turkey on the table? What would it look like to make it a way of living? What does Thanksliving look like?
The story is told that during a harvest festival in India, an old widow arrived at her church with an extraordinarily large offering of rice - far more than the poor woman could be expected to afford. The itinerant pastor of the church did not know the widow well. But he did know that she was very poor and so he asked her if she were making the offering in gratitude for some unusual blessing.
"Yes," replied the woman. "My son was sick and I promised a large gift to God if he got well." "And your son has recovered?" asked the pastor. The widow paused. "No," she said. "He died last week. But I know that he is in God's care; for that I am especially thankful."
It seems odd to us that we might find “thankfulness” on a list of emotions we may have when enduring one of life’s great hardships. How can we be thankful when things have gone so wrong? How can we feel gratitude for the pain and the loss? In his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul writes these words: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
In these few words, Paul supplies perspective on even the hardships of life. God’s desire and will for us is that we find hope and joy in Christ Jesus. Even if we face death, there is joy because life is just beginning. There is hope, because heaven awaits. That joy in the face of earthly trouble can do more than anything else to proclaim the saving grace of Jesus to a world in desperate need of him. For the believer, who knows that God is completely in charge and working all things for our good, we can be especially thankful that when we have know feelings of control, that He holds all things. We can take heart – and give thanks – because he has overcome this world! That’s the key to Thanksliving.