COLUMN: Living thanks for God’s generosity

Published 6:21 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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I love Thanksgiving. It’s partly the traditions I guess, the kinds of things we typically do. 

Many of the years of our ministry, we’ve lived pretty far from family. Like so many in ministry do. Which is a tradeoff. So, it’s a time of rest and quiet for us that we normally crave. My birthday is usually nestled right on or near Thanksgiving. 

But we use the quiet to prepare for the month of hubbub that is Advent– that is just about to knock at life’s door. We watch football. We put up the Christmas Tree some Thanksgiving days, laughing and telling the stories of so many of the ornaments from our travels.

If we’re going to put out the Christmas plates and dishes, we’ll do that. We also like to try new recipes on Thanksgiving day, smoking this or roasting that in the oven. A couple of Thanksgivings ago, we got up and Elizabeth said, “You have one job today, if you’ll take it. I only want you to make the Macaroni-and-Cheese.” 

I said, “Wow. Are you sure? I’m getting off light, but yes. By all means.” 

Then she handed me the recipe. “I could help you with something else,” I said. She smiled and said, “You haven’t read the recipe yet.” 

There on the pages was an assignment that I’m pretty sure required five-seven years of work experience and at least three references to complete. A few hours later, I think I was finally finishing up the mac-n-cheese and almost everything else for the meal was done already.

Thanksgiving is a big holiday. Often with big meals or big gatherings. Maybe big traditions. But for so many of us, it’s also about what the holiday causes us to suddenly be intentional about. It causes us to pause and give thanks. We sometimes pause to be aware, and maybe we even think of a God beyond us, active in a world beyond us. But also in a world that very much includes you and me.

Paul wrote to an early congregation in Philippians 4: 4-9. They received his letter with a gracious greeting and full of thanksgiving to God. “I thank my God for every recollection of you,” he said. “The God who has begun a good work in you will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus.”

Our text now in the fourth chapter is filled with references to God as a source of gracious, healthy life. He is in a mood at this point that is transparent to them. The mood of Thanksgiving.

He reminds them about a God toward whom they should be thankful. A God who hears our prayers. A God who, if we can claim the strength of the faith we say we have, can bring peace to our living. 

Paul said in that letter, “The Lord is near.” He said, “I want you to know that I thank God for you, the peace of God be with you.” Paul knew nothing about the Pilgrims. He knew nothing about the Massachusetts Colony and the thirty-eight settlers who would later make it through a winter there. 

Sitting in prison, what he knew was that regardless of what is going on in any of our lives, regardless of the sad things in our world, he had joy anyway. This week, some of us will remember different things. We will reach into our memories, both the parts of them that are true, and the parts of them that are our agenda. The parts that our pain has bent a little, and informs how we react. 

My hope this Thanksgiving is that it will be a good one for all of you. But as a pastor, I know that there are years when any of us may be walking through the darkness as this day arrives. 

Thomas Merton said, “To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything.” I think I’m only now living into a season of life where I can even begin to understand that. This is a week of living thanks for God’s generosity.  

Paul says that that very peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds, and mine too, in Christ Jesus. That is, if we will choose joy and let God do what only God can do. I wish you a Thanksgiving full of peace, and hope. Peace and hope that can see you through the living of these days, if we choose joy like Paul did.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.