This time of year always brings a convergence of celebration dates. I’m thinking of Thanksgiving and the liturgical Sunday of Christ the King, which ends our liturgical year. I’m also thinking of Nov. 10, the date eight years ago when I began leading our church. I’m also thinking of Nov. 15, 2009, the date on which I was ordained a Anglican priest, and I am also thinking of Nov. 1994, which is the date when our church was established. There is much to celebrate!
In the USA, Thanksgiving is upon us. For many, this is their favorite holiday because they love to travel to be with friends and family. Favorite foods, decorations, traditions, and rest from work are just a few aspects of the holiday most people cherish. I wonder what you’ll celebrate this year? It has become both a religious and non-religious holiday, helping all to celebrate. Of course, it didn’t begin that way. Thanksgiving began as way to express literal thanks to God through worship, a shared meal, and activities spread over a few days. It was religious, for God was the provider and helper through tangible means and through other people. The celebration for his provision to our Pilgrim forbears through their harvest and for their helpful relationships with Native Americans, who aided them and taught them how to survive in a new land, would create an identity mark on all future Americans. It is hard to imagine not celebrating Thanksgiving, for it is prescribed as part of our national identity. We are to be thankful people.
Oddly, our national identity is incessantly challenged by media, news, and advertising, all of which remind us regularly of what we don’t have, what’s going wrong, and what we should buy. That’s a weird pathway for a thankful people. Thanksgiving is to be the right response to God’s blessings. I’m often surprised, however, that this doesn’t come as naturally as we might think. Throughout the Bible, people are commanded to give thanks — it is no mere suggestion of simply being a good idea. Scripture commands God’s people to stop, celebrate, and give thanks.
When we make ourselves stop to give thanks at all (to God, for others, for circumstances), we must pause to consider that for which we are thankful. The pause and consideration are key to truly giving thanks. Seasons in life come and go, just as do seasons of the year. Some life-seasons last a long time, and some last a shorter time. Only a few years need to pass to experience this variety. Perhaps job losses or failed relationships create an unwanted season. Or maybe challenging seasons come during health crisis, difficult work or friend relations, and transitions, like moving. During those difficult seasons, giving thanks will have an uplifting power in your life. When you “pause and consider” those things, people, or circumstances for which you may give thanks, despite challenge or loss, you realize that not everything in a particularly challenging season is bad or difficult. Giving thanks for what we do have, for those in our lives, and for our provision reminds us that, in plenty or in need, God is with us and God loves and helps us. Our response of Thanksgiving takes our eyes off of difficulties, at least for a time, and places our eyes upon what is good and Who is Good.
Tomorrow we will celebrate the Sunday of Christ the King. Jesus Christ is the Sovereign Lord over all Creation. He is the source of life. He is the way to know God. He is the healer of our souls. He is the source of our blessings and the right response is to pause and consider giving him our thanks for all that he does for us. I hope you can join us.
Grace & Peace,