You know the picture. The family sitting around the table. Dad standing up with carving tools in hand preparing to offer thanks before everyone digs in. Everyone reverently bows their head offering silent prayers of thanks as Dad prays his rehearsed thanksgiving prayer. I think I saw that in a painting by Norman Rockwell. The traditional American thanksgiving. Add to that two kids tables and a lot of chaotic, joyful, noise and you get the traditional Haynes-Abboud thanksgiving. I love thanksgiving because I am thankful, for God, for family, for friends, and for needs faithfully met.
Close your eyes for a minute. Wait, read this first and then close your eyes. I want you to visualize something wonderful. Come with me to a biblical thanksgiving modeled for us thousands of years before America even colonized. Imagine yourself in Jerusalem ready to make a thank offering to God for all the ways He has blessed you. You walk up the uneven stairs to the “House” of God. You approach in awe and you follow these instructions.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100)
Take note. You are now shouting, worshipping, singing, knowing, entering, and giving. This is an overflow of exuberant joy. This is active and loud, not silent and reverent. Notice what we are focusing on and what we are thankful for:
The Lord God
The Lord God Who Made Us
The Lord God Who Shepherds Us
The Lord God Who Invites Us Into His Gates and His Courts
The Lord God Who is Good
The Lord God Whose Love Endures Forever
The Lord God Who is Faithful to All Generations.
This may sound callous but it is really compassionate. As a person who has experienced loss this year, may I say this from a place of understanding. If the economy has you down, if you lost loved ones this year, if Hurricane Ike is still frustrating you, if you lost a job, or if you are just not where you thought you would be right now in life, marriage, or relationships… You have the one thing that can never be taken a way. The Lord God who made you, leads you, invites you into His presence, is good to you, loves you and is faithful to you and yours. He is the focus of our thanksgiving in the good times and bad times. If your thanksgiving is about bounty, material blessing and positive circumstances you have missed the point entirely.
So do this for me. Take a moment today using Psalm 100 as your guide. Write down all the ways the Lord has shepherded you, loved you, invited you in, and been faithful to you this year. Bring the list to your version of Thanksgiving Day. Read Psalm 100 to your family and read your list. Ask others to offer thanksgivings to the Lord. Then SHOUT to the Lord with Joy. Lead a thanksgiving shout that your family will never forget. Ask everyone to participate in 30 seconds of shouting to the Lord. Talk about a God Moment that your kids will never forget. You have their attention on Thanksgiving. Make the most of it! Celebrate a Thanksgiving of another sort.