Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Thanksgiving for the Christian is not just a holiday, I believe it is a Holy-day commemorating Christian pilgrim people who sought a new life in a new world where they could freely worship God. Giving thanks is part of God’s will for our lives. Look at the scripture verse above, God’s will is for us is to rejoice, pray and give thanks in everything.
Notice that prayer is to be sandwiched between rejoicing and thanksgiving. Now I will admit that sometimes when I go to prayer, I go with an attitude other than rejoicing and I hope when I finish, I can end in thanksgiving. As we get ready for our Thanksgiving inour churches remember how, the Apostle Paul tells us how we should we prepareto give thanks.
First, we are to rejoice. The attitude of aheart of prayer is an attitude that is founded in the joy that comes from the knowledge that we are welcomed into His presence. Deep within each of us who know and have been partakers of the grace of God is the satisfying joy that He has accepted us in Christ. In many of our church services rejoicing is about the last thing we do. Our music in church should reflect this joy throughout the year but especially at Thanksgiving. Hymns like “Rejoice ye Pure in Heart, Praise to the Lord the Almighty and For the Beauty of the Earth are wonderful upbeat hymns that express our joy. And where is it written that you can only sing “Joy to the World’” at Christmas?
Next, we are to continually pray. After we have prepared byopening the treasure of joy in our hearts, next comes “pray without ceasing.” The picture here is a constant conversation. If you had an angel, personally present with you every day, wouldn’t you ask his opinion about everything you experienced? Well, you have someone better than an angel,who have the Holy Spirit of God living within you to seek out wisdom and direction. Thanksgiving time is a time for us to express to God our heartfelt thanks for what God has done and to ask for what we need. I believe that God wants to provide for your every need out of his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Ask God to put on your heart what are some of the special needs in your congregation and in your community and then expect God to answer your prayers in a way that you may mobilize your people to meet those needs.
That brings us to thanksgiving. Our thanksgiving is independent of circumstances. We so often think of the things that we are thankful for: the people, the events, the possessions we have. But the thanksgiving that flows from the heart of a believer is not dependent on things or people, instead it is totally dependent on the living relationship we have with God through Christ in prayer. We express our thanks to God by acknowledging all that God has done for us and then practice our thanks by giving generously to those around us. This last weekend celebrated the 20th year that the church I led, collected non-perishable food items in front of all the local grocery stores so we could bag and distribute them to hundreds of people on Thanksgiving Day.
Today I challenge you to start thinking about Thanksgiving as a part of the Holy Trinity of holidays; Christmas, Easter and then Thanksgiving. Tis’ the season to remember and to practice anew the reason for the Pilgrims Christian charity and fellowship. It was and still is all about God’s grace, compassion and abiding care. Come ye thankful people come- to thank our God with heart and hands and voices as we gather together to ask the Lords blessing.