“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
It is November, the election is past and the holidays are upon us. While the stores jump from Halloween candy to Santa Claus, let us observe the civil but spiritually edifying holiday of Thanksgiving with as much fervor as we look forward to Christmas. As I led our church in learning and singing "Come, Ye Thankful People Come" yesterday, I pointed out that the church year comes to a close with this season. This hymn and our Lord Himself relates the harvest and ingathering to the close of the age (Matt 13:39), so this is more than a civil holiday. It is a time to reflect on the winnowing that occurs between the wheat and chaff at Christ's return to judge the living and the dead. And before that time, let us consider our role as "laborers for the harvest" (John 4:35; Luke 10:2).
Some ideas for your celebrations:
- Read a Thanksgiving proclamation from the past: the Pilgrims', Washington’s, etc.
- Weight your prayers more heavily toward thanksgiving than toward requests this month. I find myself often tempted to offer a few general items of thanksgiving before getting on to a long list of petitions. Do this especially when you pray with others. One advantage of prayer with others is that we learn how others relate to God, we notice what others choose to spend their words and time talking to God about.
- Read a psalm celebrating Christ's judgment like 96 or 98 and meditate on this. While the end of our age may not be near, I'm an old school Puritan of J.C. Ryle's stripe: it is spiritually healthy for us to consider the end of our lives (Ecc 7:2; Heb 9:27). The two themes of thanksgiving and coming judgment are also combined in Luke 17.
More important than a special observation for a holiday is our attitude of gratitude that should permeate our spirit at all times. Show forth a content and grateful spirit not only in your words and actions but also by your body language and your spirit of joy and gratitude - your evident contentment in Christ. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Pretty direct, isn’t it? Is anything more difficult, seeing all that could be better in your family, or in your church? Is anything more difficult after this election?
Well, yes, actually. Paul had plenty worse things to contend with (Acts 19:28-30) and yet learned to be content (Phil 4:11-13). He commends and thanks God for troublesome churches that burden him. The Psalms also call us to Thanksgiving (see especially 75, 92, 105, 107, 118, 136). So let us return thanks to God at all times, and especially in this season.