In Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica he urged them to “ Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Those of us who live comfortable lives in wealthy nations should be able for follow this advice. Yet, too much of the time, we grumble and complain and wish for more/newer/better.
Once a year, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Ostensibly, this is to commemorate the early settlers and their friendship with Native Americans during those early pioneer days. Nowadays, it’s a time of year when Americans give each other permission to put their careers and busy lives on hold for a day or two, and, instead, to spend time with their families and friends. To pause to reflect upon their blessings.
Like many holidays, Thanksgiving has become commercialized and is a time for great sales on just about everything. This is quite clever, as Christmas is a mere month away, so Americans can buy their gifts the day after Thanksgiving. A celebration and feast, then shopping and preparation for the next holiday – a nice tidy package.
But what about the other 364 days of the year? Are we not just as thankful for our blessings – family and good friends, gracious homes, full tummies, comfortable lives. As Rick Warren wrote in his daily devotional on November 29th,
“When you’re going through tough times, you need to look at what’s left, not what’s lost, and be grateful for it. No matter how bad things are, there are always thousands of things you can be grateful for. And no matter how bad things are, there is always the fact that you can be thankful to God just for being God. He has promised to see you through, to help you out, to strengthen you, to care for you, to do miracles, to answer your prayers. He’s promised that even when things don’t go your way, he can work it for good in your life.”
Agreed and enough said.
I have had mixed feelings about Christmas ever since I was a little girl. I love the tree and decorations, the lights and songs and presents. But there was always some family drama that tainted the holiday. When I was little, I rarely knew the details but I felt the tension. When I got older, there were stresses galore and I seldom truly enjoyed the holidays. Even in good times, there was a sense of hollowness, like something was not quite right, something was missing.
Nowadays, life is good. Refer back to Rick Warren’s wise words; I have a great many things for which to be thankful.
So, instead of getting caught up in the frenzy of gift buying and preparations, I will take one day at a time. Do what I must as well as I possibly can. Then I will focus on Jesus, the One who IS Christmas.
You can strip away the lights, decorations, trees, gifts, feasting with family and friends. Alone, in the glare of a single bright star, you will find a manger, a tiny baby in swaddling clothes, and a tired but joyful young carpenter and his bride.
Let your hearts be centered on them this holiday. Mine will be.
So many points here, Vera and I agree with all of them.
Thanksgiving and Christmas have become papier mache copies of their core selves.
And, tensions abound at family gatherings on both occasions. This year, I am skipping family holiday events altogether, so I can just relax at home for once. I have also decided to stop buying so many gifts for other people. It is not just a financial burden, it is a time punishment too and I have noticed how few people appreciate the trouble I have gone to to pick just the right gift for each person, and wrap it thoughtfully. Done!
I get a daily message for Reverend Dr. Charles Stanley. This morning it was:
Philippians 4:11-13New American Standard Bible (NASB)
11 Not that I speak [a]from want, for I have learned to be [b]content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things [c]through Him who strengthens me.
Exactly! I was reflecting recently on the fact that I used to do all my shopping exclusively in upscale department and specialty shops. Now I go to Target and Walmart! And, I am just as happy with the things I get, while spending a great deal less on them.
This is progress for me. I try to keep the important values uppermost in my mind and life and try to forego the chatter and the peripheral.
Good reminder here, Vera. Blessings to you at this sacred time of year.
I applaud your decision re gifts and gift giving, Beth. In our family, we buy for the kids and give each other small gifts, often just a bottle of a favourite wine. The focus is on spending time together. This year, I have accummulated points (Airmiles and a local drugstore) so I’m not ‘spending’ a lot of money.
I read Dr. Stanley’s daily devotionals too! Always good food for thought. I’m also reading a daily note from juliegillies.com with a focus on taking a ‘holy pause’ every day, to focus on the Lord before getting caught up in the daily grind and holiday preparations. It’s good to keep first things first.
Enjoy your low key holidays this year, Beth. Hopefully you will create a new and enjoyable tradition!
Oh, we think alike. I meant the message is FRom, not fOR Dr. Stanley — typo.
I start and end each day this way. I agree, first things first!