Nov 20 2018

Give Thanks

Pastor Dave Koppel

Take a moment with me and remember the Thanksgivings of your childhood. Where did you celebrate? Who was there with you? What are your favorite memories and stories?

For most of us, Thanksgiving conjures up warm memories when things were good and we didn’t have the big worries and concerns that we have now. There were special people there and often good food and drink, maybe a football game on TV or out in the yard.

We might have some great memories…but that’s what they are—memories.

This week Thanksgiving comes around again…

Maybe you can’t be with your family this year, or, even if you can, there might be an empty place at the table. Maybe you have financial or other issues that have you preoccupied. Maybe your kids are grown and married and they are with the other half of the family this year. Maybe a family member has to be at work. Maybe a family member has divorced.

I was talking with a friend the other day and she commented, “Thanksgiving won’t be the same anymore.”

We often feel like things will never be the same, and we long for the days gone by, often the days when we were kids, certainly the days when it seemed like the whole family was there.

The truth is that Thanksgiving will never be the same anymore. It can’t be. Life changes. People move. People grow up. Relatives pass away. Babies are born. Kids bring home a boyfriend or a girlfriend to meet the family.

There is a part that doesn’t change—it is a day set aside to thank God, to honor Him, and celebrate His goodness and abundance, and to really, truly say thanks to Him for our nation, for food to eat and shelter, for our jobs, and our families, for health and strength, and most of all, for Jesus and the incredible sacrifice that He made for us.

And the other part—that will always change. Families grow and change. Different people can make it on different years. It will be at your house or it won’t. Somebody might be ill; someone else might get delayed in travel.

When you think about it, Thanksgiving never was the same in the first place. Even when you were little, there might have been different family members or friends who could make it. Even then, sometimes there was an empty place. Even then, someone might have lost a job, and another person might have gotten a lousy prognosis, and another person might have been sweating out the bills.

The wonder of it all, is that we can give thanks whether we are with family or not, if we are with a different set of friends each year or at a different person’s house each year, whether we celebrate old traditions (like having sparkling cider and decorating the house for Christmas on the day after) or new traditions (like going to Fredericksburg for the tree lighting).

I, for one, have had crazy and varied Thanksgivings. Some were times when one of my sisters brought home a new boyfriend, some were when we were far from our families, some were with friends—there was the year when the guests wouldn’t leave…(that’s a story for another day), and the year when two friends who were going through a divorce both showed up independently on our doorstep because they didn’t have anywhere else to go (that was a big surprise to each of them to find the other person at our home—but it worked out great), and the year when a bunch of reenactors came over dressed like  French soldiers from the 1700’s and Indians, or the year that 90-year-old Sam came over and we put on a 3D video of the view from the first car of a roller coaster and watched it together with our red and blue glasses on, swaying back and forth with every turn.

You see, they will always be different. What makes the day special is remembering our blessings and taking the time to thank God for them. And, if we do that, we will end up so thankful, so grateful, so filled with praise that the other things won’t bother us—even Aunt Edna who, no matter how terrific the whole meal was, would say, “Well, the celery was good...”

God has blessed us with so many gifts in so much abundance, that we could spend an entire day trying to list all the things that we can be thankful for. And, whether we see it at the moment or not, our gathered family and friends, whomever may show up this year, are God’s blessings too.

So this year, let’s praise and thank God, and hang on for the ride. It will either be a great time with family and friends, or it will be a good story to tell at dinner next year. Either way, we can be thankful.

Thankfully in His grip,