As Thanksgiving approaches, it may be hard to feel thankful. Our nation has been hit hard with catastrophe, tragedy, and unprecedented violence. From the fires in the west to the hurricanes in the south and flooding in the east and numerous shootings throughout, no region has been spared from calamity. Many people are hurting and broken. Some are destitute without a home, while others have lost loved ones without having the chance to say goodbye.
Our hearts hurt for those who have lost everything, and we’re heavily burdened for those who have no hope. So this Thanksgiving, how can we rejoice and give thanks when our world seems to be falling apart?
Gratitude is a posture. A choice. We often overlook this truth and blindly believe that gratitude and thankfulness is a response to overflowing blessings. But Paul resets our perspective when he wrote to the Thessalonians:
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~I Thessalonians 5:18
That word easily tumbles out of the mouth of a toddler as he runs to greet his father with a bear hug or spills out in the delighted squeal of a little girl as her father relentlessly tickles her tummy. Whether it’s uttered in joyful abandon, frustrated anger, deep-hearted sorrow, unwavering trust, or warm affection from the lips of a child or adult, the connotation remains the same.
Yesterday, I shared an epiphany that occurred while standing before the traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was a scene that opened my eyes to see each name and wrap my heart around each life that was given. However, there was an aspect of the story that I did not tell you, a part of my contemplations that I did not share.
This iconic image from World War II has come to represent the tenacity and loyalty of America and her comrades-in-arms. But it is also a representation of sacrifice.
Today, as we reflect on the victories that have made America the world power she is today, we must also remember the millions of lives sacrificed in the process. This is what Memorial Day is all about: remembering those fallen in combat.
They live quiet, selfless lives. They’re always on call and never have time off. They don’t work for money nor do they expect praise or applause for their daily, moment-by-moment efforts. Their greatest delight and joy is to see their young protégées walking with the Lord, happy, healthy both in body and mind, and noteworthy citizens of society. From the sleepless nights of the infant stage through the rocky ride of the teen years, they work tirelessly to see that goal come to fruition.
As we move from the season of gratefulness and Thanksgiving, and into that of gifts, giving, and receiving, we must be careful that we do not slip into a hunger and desire for things, dissatisfaction for what we have and what God has given us, and a need to possess more. I’ve always thought it rather paradoxical that immediately after our celebration and declaration of thanksgiving to God for what He’s done for us and given us, we turn to and start thinking about what we’ve got to have and will not be happy without. So as we transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I believe that the Apostle Paul has a timely message for us.
Turkey Day. That’s what people are calling this day. But what is that even supposed to mean? Does it mean that today is a day to celebrate turkeys? I think not, because the entire meal is served around a golden, roasted turkey. So what’s with the “Turkey Day” expression? What happened to Thanksgiving—a time in which we reflect and remember what God has done?
“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.”
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