It occurs to me that I tend to spend time mustering up extra physical and emotional strength just to “get through” the Thanksgiving holiday as I anticipate traveling and spending time with family and friends while sharing a big meal together. It’s not that I’m not thankful for the opportunity, but the few days at the end of November I’ve been graciously given to rest and celebrate “a time to give thanks” can sometimes be treated as just an obstacle to overcome that gets in the way of what I really have on my mind….Christmas! Instead, however, the Thanksgiving holiday should be enjoyed as the prelude to one of the greatest times of the year…a celebration of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. For without Him, His work of salvation, and the Good News of the Gospel, I would be hard-pressed to find much to be thankful for in my fallen, sinful state.
I have to admit, though, once December 1st hits the calendar, it’s as if I have thrown out Giving Thanks with my holiday leftovers. Why is that? Without warning, my anxiety goes up, I’m running around feverishly to get the house decorated for Christmas, to make my list and shop for gifts, to help my boys finish up their school semesters, and prepare for family to arrive to spend this infamous holiday with us. But somewhere in all that activity, my Giving Thanks is hardly heard by others and especially not by God. Unfortunately, what replaces thanks-giving is my complaining about all that has to be done, my whining about the cost of everything, and my agitation because there’s too much to do in too little time and too many people are in my way. Somehow, I don’t think that attitude was ever intended to be placed somewhere before Thanksgiving to somewhere after New Year’s. As a believer and follower of Jesus, there is always something to be thankful for, even when everything around me shouts at me to throw out my gratitude and doubt God’s goodness in the mist of the holiday drama.
What if each day in December began with praising God for who He is and giving thanks to Him for all He has already done for me through Jesus? What if that was how I prepared each day for the Christmas holiday season? What would my perspective look like? How would my attitude change? What would be my priorities? How would I treat others? Thanks-giving should naturally flow into Christmas, but it has to begin with a focus vertically on Jesus and the gift of His life, grace, and love so that we can share horizontally that same gift of Jesus’ life, grace, and love with others.
Maybe before you make your list of things to accomplish to be prepared for the Christmas holiday, begin with making a list of all that God has given you to be thankful for in order to prepare your heart to receive God’s grace and love through His Son, Jesus. If not, you may find that you throw out the Gift of Jesus and the Gospel with your Christmas leftovers. Without Jesus, there’s no one like Him who can sustain and carry you through the New Year. Be thankful to God, celebrate His Son – Jesus, and trust Him for your New Year.
“I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.” (Psalm 116:17) Tamar Miller