Thanksgiving is a bit of an ironic time. On the one hand, the focus of the holiday is giving thanks. On the other hand, if we were to sit down and record how we actually spend our time and energy this week, we might find the focus is more on buying, preparing, cooking, and eating…a whole heck of a lot.
Can a heart of thanksgiving and all this holiday activity go hand in hand?
I think we can ask the same question not just of Thanksgiving, but of the upcoming Christmas season as well.
At least, this is true for me. Instead of a heart of gratitude and a heart set on Christ, too often ‘tis the season of wanting, spending, eating, drinking, watching, hurrying, wrapping, sending, traveling, and scurrying about.
What’s going on here?
In the beginning, human beings had it all. God had made us in His likeness and gave us meaningful and fruitful work, unhindered intimacy and joy, and union with Himself, the Source of it all.
Into this bliss the father of lies comes and tells our first father and mother, in essence, “God is holding out on you. There is so much more. You’re not actually ‘like God’ but you can be. Just reach out, take the fruit, eat, and you’ll see” (see Genesis 3:1 – 4).
They did, and they saw. But not as the serpent had promised. His words held out life, love, and joy, but they delivered the opposite.
Could it be the enemy’s doing the same thing today?
Could it be that so much of what’s held out before us as the key to a happy holiday, the way to fulfillment, the road to bliss, could it be that it actually leads elsewhere?
I think so.
When I slow down to pay attention, I see that so much of the powerful pull into frenetic wanting and consuming in me comes from a place inside that believes I’ll only be satisfied, truly satisfied, by more doing, rushing, eating, drinking, watching, resting, having, etc., etc., etc.
I’m not saying there’s no joy available in holiday traditions, in music, in giving and receiving gifts, in visiting family and friends, in delicious feasts (and yes, in having more than you usually would!). Of course there’s good in these.
But the enemy of our souls would have us believe these are the good, and so in order to have the good we long for, we have to dive in to the holiday melee, and grasp and claw for happiness.
In truth, there is good in these because God is good and because God generously gives. Instead of grasping, we can simply open our hearts and hands to gratefully receive. I think here of the words Jesus spoke in the parable of the prodigal son, when the father says to his oldest son, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:31).
I think God has been speaking these words to us from the very beginning. I think He is speaking them to us now.
This holiday season, what would happen if we let up the gas a bit? If we literally did less, bought less, consumed less? Not because doing so is bad, but as a way to remind ourselves we don’t have to hurry, worry, and grasp because we’re already with our loving Father and everything He has is already ours.
Might we find it a bit easier to keep our hearts content? Might we find our hands, our minds, our hearts, our table a bit more (not less) full?
I’d be willing to bet we would.
Question for you: What have you done in the past or are you going to do this Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas season to seek your satisfaction in God?
I began a new tradition last year. I volunteer with Operation Christmas Child, an annual opportunity to help share needed items such books and school supplies; and fun items such as games, coloring books, etc. to children around the world. What I love the most is these shoeboxes are personally given to children (usually through local churches in those countries) and those who give a shoebox to a child also shares God’s love and offer of the permanent gift of salvation. Here is a link if you want to volunteer in Columbia, MD, as we prepare each box for the overseas journey. https://www.occvolunteersignup.com/
Josh, it is nicely written, thought provoking. It is good to focus on these things. You are in the midst of the commercial pressures that are being exerted on the population by profit oriented businesses. All very much like the father of lies promissing piece and happiness with the next purchase. We all have the same challenge. No matter who we are, our location on the planet or our station in life. So, thank you for your well-thought-out message. It’s a wonderful thing to stop and reflect on all that we have and from whom it all came. And also on those who have nothing. I am thinking of the old lady in our town who broke her arm and can no longer pick up cans for money. She could hardly contain herself. She explained she had no money to buy food. I want more compassion this season for those who have less, and there are so many with less. So happy to be on your list.
Dallas Willard sai , “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” For me that is the key to focusing on the Giver of all. Every time I find myself hurrying, I deliberately slow down and say a prayer. Just a quick arrow prayer. But it helps me stay centered. Now I shall add to that the quote that you have reminded me of from the prodigal son. “ you are always with me and everything I have is yours. “ Very powerful. Our God is truly awesome!
Thank you for this message! I will share it with others.