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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Lost Holiday

Let me make one thing clear right up front--I love Christmas. I'm a Christmas freak. I'm one of those annoying people who actually enjoys seeing all the Christmas decorations in the stores in September. They make me smile. They call to me and invite me to pick then up, handle them, turn them over and look at the price tag. Yes, I love everything about the Christmas season, from the decorating to the music, the wrapping of presents and the baking, the holiday specials on TV and the programs at church. I love the idea of hearing Christmas carols--songs about our Lord and Savior-- being played for six to eight weeks on the PA systems in the mall. (Ever hear Easter music being played? Or Labor Day music? Fourth Of July music?) There is something distinctly special about Christmas. Even though the retailers try to commercialize it, the reason we observe the holiday still manages to come through.

That said--I must say there is a disturbing lack of focus on another important holiday: Thanksgiving. Yes, there are decorations in the stores, miniature pilgrims and lovely cornucopias, fake autumn leaves and pumkins, pretty autumn tablecloths and napkins, and giant platters large enough to hold a turkey on steroids. But what I long to see and hear are people excited about Thanksgiving, not just because Grandma is making her special cornbread dressing or Mom is planning on making a pumpkin pie from scratch, but rather because the holiday is an opportunity to focus on what God has done for us.

My son, Jonathan, back when he was battling cancer, uncovered a few verses in Psalms and latched on to them: Psalm 66 verse 5 and verse 16. He proclaimed God's goodness and mercy for him to anyone who would listen. "Come and see" he declared. "See the works of God--He is awesome! Come and hear, and I will tell you what God has done for me." For Jonathan, every day was Thanksgiving. His heart's desire was to communicate to young people, teenagers and young adults alike, and urge them not to waste a day. He wanted them to understand that their youth doesn't guarantee that they still have many years down the road, years when they can love and serve God AFTER they've done the things they want to do. Jonathan desired for people to wrap their minds around the concept of the awesome gifts God gives us every day, and exercise a spirit of deep thankfulness. Nobody is promised tomorrow.

God desires our praise every day. In Jeremiah, chapter 33, God says, "Again there shall be heard in this place--the voice of joy and the voice of gladness--Praise the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever--bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord." This kind of praise, this voice of joy and gladness, is generated from a heart of GRATITUDE.

So often we get bogged down in the stress and preparation of the day. Did I remember to buy crecsent rolls? Should I make that same green bean casserole again? How should I arrange the seating around the table, because cousin Mildred doesn't like Uncle Harry so I can't have them sitting next to each other. I have to make sure dinner is over by 3:00 because that's when the big game comes on. Thanksgiving is more than turkey and dressing, or football games, and Thanksgiving is more than the kick-off for the Christmas shopping season.

This year, let's celebrate Thanksgiving like Jonathan did. Search deep in your heart and allow God to reveal reasons to be grateful for all the things He's done for you. Bring praise into the house and worship God for who He is and what He's done. Give yourself to a spirit of thankfulness for your every breath and heartbeat, for blessings that we barely acknowledge on a daily basis, for the grace He offers to carry us through adversity and the mercy He pours out when our circumstances threaten to drown us. Lay your heart open and ask God to fill it the voice of joy and gladness. Use the holiday of Thanksgiving to develop a fresh awareness of gratitude.

Christmas is a precious time as we reflect on the coming of our Lord Jesus to this earth. But let's guard against allowing the excitement and planning of the Christmas season to overshadow the spirit of praise and thankfulness of Thanksgiving.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

1 comment:

Rose McCauley said...

Loved this post Connie, and esp. the Scriptures Jonathan quoted. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of its focus on family instead of presents. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!