We're entering Thanksgiving worn out from a pandemic, political strife, and familial isolation.
We all desperately want and need the classic, nostalgic Thanksgiving.
But, it's not going to be the same.
And that's okay.
Remember the Sweetness
We're entering this sacred time of family, food, and connection with weary souls. We've shuffled through the desert of 2020, and we're ready for some manna.
Like the ancient Israelites, we've left a cruel summer and now want respite. We have to remember their hunger as we approach our Thanksgiving. With mighty signs and miracles, God had rescued His people from the cruelty of Pharaoh. He led them through the sea. And then, He provided for them a miraculous Thanksgiving in the wilderness.
Despite the wonders they complained and hoarded, missing the miracle of their freedom...
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Exodus 16:2-3 (NIV)
When we're hungry and frustrated, it reveals the state of our hearts and what kind of thanksgiving we’re going to bring out. (I’ll tell you what...until I have some food and coffee in me, I'm an "unholy bear" in the morning—according to my wonderful wife.?)
I can't imagine being ancient Israel. The stress of exile and leaving slavery. The hardship of finding a national identity.
But we can see the sweetness of the miracles they inherited and learn thanksgiving for ourselves. Their stories are there for us to learn from them.
Imagine an invisible praise-ometer in your heart. If it fluctuates based on your current situations or physical comforts, then your thanksgiving will also fluctuate with it.
However, the New Testament shows us a lifestyle marked by unshakable thanksgiving.
There's this amazing story in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas encounter a fortune-teller. Her masters had profited from her ability. Paul ends up casting an evil spirit out of her, and she is totally healed through the power of Jesus.
Her masters weren't happy, though, about losing their source of profit.
So, they accuse Paul and Silas of causing a riot, and the two disciples are "beaten with rods" and thrown into prison.
The Biblical account then injects sweetness in the middle of a horrid situation...
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
Acts 16:25-26 (NIV)
Their praise-ometer maxed out in the middle of an unfair, unjust, and painful situation. Their thanksgiving changed not only the atmosphere but also the jailer's life, who put his faith in Christ because of the miracle of the moment.
As Christians, we have to embrace heartfelt, Biblical thanksgiving. One that's rooted not in comfort or plenty, but in the sweetness and riches of Christ. Many will be more appreciative this year, but many may forget, like Israel did. Let’s embrace the mindset of the Apostle Paul who sang while in prison.
So, as we pass (or social-distance-chuck) the turkey, imagine our loved one's smiles under their masks, and long for those missing from the table, let's enjoy the sweetness of Christ and of each other.
Let’s pour out thanksgiving in spite of 2020.
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