I have never put a Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving; I always felt it would be paramount to declaring “I just want to enjoy the season without taking the time to give thanks.”
But not this year.
This year I threw out all my preconceived ideas about the sanctity of a man-made holiday and decked the halls pre-Thanksgiving. And it was the best decision I have made in a long time.
Every year the holidays usher in the busiest season of the whole year. With family and home plans, work and ministry lists, and church responsibilities, I am often overwhelmed this time of year.
But I think we all know 2020 has been different in every kind of way. Many stores we used to shop have closed their doors forever. The holiday hustle and bustle has been reduced to online shopping and fewer guests on the list.
While I am still mourning the loss of normal, I have also had to look within at where my hope really lies. Does the thrill of the holiday season come from the shopping and decorating and socializing?
Or do I really know the “thrill of hope” for which a weary world rejoices?
3 Reasons to Give Thanks in Hard Seasons
As we got out our tree and decorations, I made a quick run to Dollar General to see what they had. And a golden garland caught my eye. It simply said “PEACE.”
And as we strung it around the tree, I realized that it wasn’t the list making, double checking, gift buying, and package wrapping that I needed. It wasn’t a tree or lights or the scratching of a needle on vinyl playing Christmas songs from my childhood that soothed my aching soul.
It was the hope of peace that comes only through the life of Jesus. As we hung the nail on our tree, topped it with a small crown, and draped it in peace, my heart finally settled into thanksgiving for this season.
“Be joyful 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
Give thanks in all circumstances. Corona circumstances. Fake news circumstances. Racial unrest circumstances. Jacked-up election circumstances.
As my pastor shared this past Sunday, it’s always in the darkest of times that God’s light shines the brightest.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rests upon you and his glory appears over you.”Isaiah 60:1-2
Thanksgiving and Christmas are taking on a whole new meaning for me this year, and they are all wrapped up into one.
This year my Thanksgiving is for Christmas. I am giving thanks not just for food and family and the prosperity I am so accustomed to. I’m not bowing my head just to give thanks for my comfort and my many blessings.
Instead, my heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the love, peace, and hope that are all wrapped up in swaddling clothes. I am giving thanks even in this difficult season because the Light of the World has come.
Give thanks for the love of God.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16
The verse we know the best we sometimes meditate on the least. God’s love for us is what motivated Him to send His Son.
No matter what is going on in our world right now, nothing can change God’s love for us, and for that we can give thanks.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LORD.”Romans 8:38-39
As we take time to give thanks, let us start with being thankful for the love of God that sent His Son to the cross for our sins.
Give thanks for the peace of God.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”John 14:27
I’ll admit, I have struggled with anxiety over the last several weeks. I allowed the world’s narrative to be louder than the Lord’s truth.
The peace that holds us during difficult times is a peace that only comes through Jesus. The world brings trouble, but in Jesus we can have peace. We don’t have to meditate on all that is wrong. We can rest in the peace that comes through the gospel.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Isaiah 9:6
We can give thanks even during a time of unrest in the world because we live in a Kingdom in which the Prince of Peace reigns.
Give thanks for the hope that is in God.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”Romans 12:12
Hope brings joy because we are able to look beyond our present circumstances to the glory that is to come for those in Christ.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”Romans 8:18
There have been moments I have looked to the future with a feeling of hopelessness. But Christmas reminds us that hope is the foundation of our faith.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”Hebrews 6:19
The writer of Hebrews encourages us that the God we serve cannot lie and His promises are sure. This hope rests in the One who entered the Holy of Holies on our behalf, so that we may “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
We can give thanks in our present circumstances because the hope of the gospel is that those who put their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior will live forever with Him in a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28).
So, whether you separate your holidays or choose to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one, I pray that you experience the love, peace, and hope of Jesus this season.
Maybe letting go of the frills of the holidays this year will bring us back to the thrill of hope, that yes, a weary world still has reason to rejoice.
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