November 2019 - Thanksgiving Thoughts
The month of November signals the approach of our national day of Thanksgiving. This year, that celebration falls rather late in the month on Thursday, November 28. People will be traveling near and far to join family and friends around tables laden with wonderful food that we associate with this holiday: roast turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie, just to name a few. Although Thanksgiving is not a church festival, it is fitting and proper to gather in the house of the Lord to offer thanks and praise for God’s blessings that are poured out upon us each and every day. My own congregation has a tradition of having a Thanksgiving Eve worship service, and that takes place on Wednesday evening, November 27 at 7:30PM. You’re welcome to join us!
One of the Scripture lessons appointed to be read for Thanksgiving worship is Philippians 4:6-20. Take a few moments now to read this passage from God’s Word. Spend a little time digesting what God is saying to you here. You can find it at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=philippians+4%3A6-20&version=ESV. Some interesting things to note here:
- A Letter from Prison – Paul the apostle wrote this letter from prison, as he makes clear in Philippians 1:7. And yet, this little 4-chapter letter (or epistle) overflows with joy and thanksgiving! That may strike us as odd. After all, when a person is in prison, it’s usually not a time for giving thanks. Or is it? Read on!
- Do Not Be Anxious – We live at a particularly anxious point in time. Our nation and our world are very unsettled right now, and many are wondering, “What does the future hold?” It would be very easy to be consumed by anxious worry over lots of different things. Over against this mindset, Paul says this: “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 4:6-7). Here is something that we need to lay claim to each and every day!
- I Can Do All Things – How often do our outward circumstances dictate whether we are thankful or not? Hmm… maybe best not to answer that one. Paul’s point here is that “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11b-13). This is revolutionary! Paul’s words here are really quite a turn-around from how we usually operate: If we have everything we need, then we are thankful. If we don’t, then we’re not. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul’s calls us to something higher and better: an attitude of gratitude that is not dependent on externals, but flows out of God’s never-failing mercy and grace in Jesus.
Maybe this has been a tough year for you with setbacks and disappointments; difficult circumstances or sorrow. Maybe everything is just out-of-balance for you right now. Maybe Thanksgiving is not going to be what you’d like it to be this year. Take heart in what the Word of God has to say to you, especially here in this passage from Philippians 4. You are God’s beloved child, so precious in his sight that He did not withhold the life of his only Son, but freely gave him up for you! If you’re finding it hard to be thankful about anything else, then this is most definitely something for which to be thankful. For the child of God, Thanksgiving is not limited to one day in late November. Each and every day is an opportunity to give thanks to God whose “mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
I wish you a blessed and happy Thanksgiving, trusting as Paul did that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). May God transform our thanksgiving into thanksliving for Jesus’ sake.