I love Thanksgiving. Most would cite Christmas as their favorite holiday, but for me, Thanksgiving is the day I look forward to most. Christmas to me has become such a commercial exercise in American culture. I still look forward to the retelling of the Christmas story with ears needing to hear of a Savior born, but the mall, traffic, and hectic schedule to me is not something to look forward to. Before the chaos of the Christmas season begins, what is my role as a father? What is it that I can teach my child about why to be thankful?
Edward Winslow, a participant in the first Thanksgiving, said, “And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness od God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
Winslow had known want. Roughly half his party perished after they reached the mainland of North America. This was after they left their homes and families to cross the Atlantic in hope of a better life. Poverty, famine, and death circled their camp like leaves falling from a tree in fall. Yet, one good planting spring/summer yielded a harvest of corn that would be life sustaining for these first pilgrims. So, their only response was to offer thanks to a God Who was their only Sustainer.
People often use Thanksgiving as a sort of thanks, an inventory. Some families go around the table and say something they are thankful for. Especially for Americans who are overwhelmingly blessed compared various parts of the world, it is important to have a moment of reflection. When we live in a word that is always looking for the bigger and better option, it is vital to be still and take stock of what we have been given. A good idea also is to serve those who are not as blessed as we may find ourselves to be.
Psalm 95:1-6 encapsulates this idea: “O Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, And a great King above all gods, In whose hand are the depths of the earth; The peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”
Before we dive headlong into the Christmas season, my hope is to tap the brakes. My family has experienced much change this year. We have seen God’s Hand in many areas. From a several-months-long fight with cancer, another cancer scare that was thwarted, continuing to rebuild a destroyed church, welcoming a new pastor, and getting ready to sell the only home my family has ever known, there are many things that have caused stress and worry this year. There have also been moments of providence that can only come from God.
There are those fantastic moments God gives me in the giggles of my daughter, the date nights with my wife, seeing my church family get back into our new sanctuary, and seeing my mother-in-law still have her husband after a long cancer fight.
I am overwhelmingly blessed, not because of where I live, or what I have, but because of Who loves me. The God of Heaven, Who knows the end of time as well as He knows the beginning, loves and cares for me. He constantly calls me to Him through His Son. If that weren’t enough, He balanced the scales eternally in my favor through the death of His Son.
Basically, God has set the table and told me not to bring anything. He’s prepared it all. All that is, or was, or will be, He has control of it. He means good for me, no matter how much I argue or fight with Him. My submission is the price. An eternal banquet filled with much better things than turkey and dressing await those who are in Him.
My job as a father is to prepare my child to enter the world; a world that seems ever against God and His teachings. Better than teaching her about cranberry sauce and stuffing, my focus has to be on teaching her of the ever-reigning providence of God. I must stress to her the binary option of grace/judgment. I must teach her that Jesus stands ready at all times to receive her Home, no matter how far away she gets. I must teach her of the many things we have to be thankful for, both physically and spiritually.
Happy Thanksgiving. May we all remember the many reasons we have to be thankful.