Thanksgiving, No Matter What...Thanksgiving is conditional, right? I mean, the idea of giving thanks, of being thankful, suggests that I have been given something to be thankful for. If we are given a plate of pancakes for breakfast or given a Christmas gift, our parents taught us to say “Thank you.” With that in mind, it seems like being thankful depends on how much I have to be thankful for. Or does it?
Paul told the Church at Thessalonica to give thanks in all circumstances, not some circumstances, not “good circumstances,” but all circumstances (1 Thes. 5:18). He urged the Church at Philippi to rejoice always, not on most days or only on good days, but to be thankful always. Maybe that’s why we’ve celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday around the same time every year since George Washington’s proclamation in 1789.When we listen to Scripture and to God’s people through the ages, we remember our need to always be thankful but more importantly, find the joy of living as thankful people.
In this Thanksgiving season, we could look to a good old hymn entitled, Now Thank We All Our God. The song was written during the Thirty Years War in Germany by a pastor named Martin Rinkart. Rinkart pastored a church in the town of Eilenburg in Saxony. Because Eilenburg was a walled city, it became a haven for refugees seeking to escape the fighting. Before long, the city became too crowded and food was in short supply. Then, a famine hit, then a terrible plague, making Eilenburg a giant morgue. In one year alone, Pastor Rinkart conducted funerals for 4,500 people, including his own wife. The war dragged on; the suffering continued. Yet through it all, he never lost courage or faith. Even during Eilenburg's darkest days, he was able to write this hymn:
Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hath done, In whom the world rejoices. ...So keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed, and free us from all ills, in this world and the next.
I hope you noticed the opening word, “Now.” Rinkart wanted everyone to know that being thankful to God was not something we would do when or do then, as if things needed to be better for us to be thankful. Now is always a good time to be thankful. Even when he was waist deep in the headaches of war and the heartaches of loss, Pastor Rinkart was able to lift his sights to a higher plane. He kept his mind on God's love when the world was filled with hate. He kept his heart on God's promise of heaven when earth was a living hell. So whether you are going through hangups or headaches, hiccups or heartaches, there is always something to be thankful for. So be sure to have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Thankfully serving Christ with you: Ed, Will & the First UMC Family