As we turn to our Thanksgiving celebrations this week, we have much to consider. What are we to be thankful for? How are we to be thankful? What difference does a spirit of Thanksgiving make in our lives. A passage that I have been meditating on this week is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. It says,
"Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
I am not always joyful. But, that is what God wants for me. He has taken care of everything. What do I have to fear? What could possibly get me down? What am I worried about? I find that I lose my joy when I begin to focus on the circumstances in my life that I perceive to be negative. When I get my worth from others instead of God, I lose my joy. When I find my identity in my accomplishments instead of in Christ, I lose my joy. When I look to Jesus, my joy is fulfilled. In His presence, there is fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11).
Pray continually. Easier said than done, right? Prayer is a rhythm. It is a song in your heart. When I am praying all the time, all throughout my day, I am reminded of God's promises and His provision. I see things through His perspective. When I am not in an attitude of prayer, I am overwhelmed by the world and the challenges I face. Prayer is my moment by moment lifeline to God and His resources.
Give thanks in all circumstances. Sometimes, the circumstances of our life are not good. There is much to complain about. But, when we choose to give thanks to God anyway, we are acknowledging that no matter what we face, He is still working and in control. I often forget that. I take my eyes off Jesus and put them on myself and my circumstances. I get negative. But, giving thanks no matter what reminds me who is Lord.
All of this is hard for me. But, whatever God commands, He provides grace for. So, if we are told to live this way, that means that God has grace for us to enable us to live this way – if we would just look to Him. Thanksgiving is a great time to be reminded of this. As we gather like the early Pilgrims to enjoy a meal of thanksgiving to God, we need to remember the role of joy, prayer, and thanksgiving in keeping us open to God, who He is, and what He is doing in the world.
And, this brings me to Advent. Advent consists of the four weeks preceding Christmas. It is a time of hope and expectation as we remember Christ who came in history, Christ who is coming to reign in the future, and Christ who has come to live with us and within us. It is a time of joy and a time of longing. It is a time of fulfillment and a time that we cry out to God for justice and mercy. Having a thankful heart during this time allows us to more clearly see where God is working and it enables us to join Him through faith, prayer, and hopeful action.