– By Pastor James, November 25, 2020
I saw a disheartening and ultimately toxic article on CNN this week, “You have permission to NOT be thankful this Thanksgiving.” While the writer’s last name was literally Hope, she has none. “I am incapable of feeling the joy that has, for every Thanksgiving prior to 2020, accompanied me to the homes of friends and family… I have landed in a new place this year, one where it’s perfectly acceptable to want people to take their gratitude and shove it up this year’s pathetically small turkey cavity. Yes, I retain the right to feel full-on Scrooge this year, and I invite you to join me. Many emotions rise to the surface, but gratitude is not one of them.” She goes on to rename this year “”Grumpstaking,” whereby we allow ourselves to feel whatever range of negative emotions we feel like feeling without the pressure to proclaim all that we’re grateful for.”
I understand this writer’s impulse (and have even felt it myself, more than once). She even stresses that “forcing gratitude” isn’t healthy (although cultivating an attitude of gratitude most certainly is). But Tuesday morning with my Men’s Bible Study crew we read Paul’s words in Galatians 2: “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” When I think about THAT gift, with its eternal ramifications, there is never a day I cannot be grateful.
In Christ, I have something worth being grateful for even in my darkest day here. And when I think of Paul – and all those in the Book of Acts we just finished – they faced far darker days than I have and still followed God’s command to us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” When I remember my sin, and Christ’s great gift, and my eternity secured in Him… there is no need to force gratitude this holiday season. There is no pressure to proclaim, but rather great impetus to praise. And that verse above sounds like less of a command than a refuge, leaning into my transcendent future when the imminent doesn’t feel like home. I will not sucumb to the pit of despair to which this “grumpstaking” author suggests we surrender.
Yes, we are in the midst of a pandemic and political turmoil… along with our personal problems. Can we have Thanksgiving? My wife found this proclamation by Abraham Lincoln, made on Thanksgiving in 1863… smack dab in the middle of the Civil War, no less. I can think of few American moments that might be the height of lament, to say there’s no room for Thanksgiving… but the boldness of Lincoln and his faith-focused words (posted below) embolden me to slough off my grumpstaking and embrace gratitude to my God. May they be a blessing to you this holiday and as we move together toward Christmas.
Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.– Abraham Lincoln