“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song “( Psalm 95:2, NIV).
Here in the United States we are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving next week. But, you probably wouldn’t know it if you were to walk into any store here. Or in my neighborhood. Oh, there are the usual food items stacked up high on the shelves: pumpkin pie filling, cranberry sauce, gravy, bags of bread crumbs for the stuffing, appetizers, turkey themed decorations. But, if you were to look next to these displays you would also notice the Christmas foods and decorations, given equal shelf space.
In my neighborhood I’ve noticed people have put up their Christmas trees. This juxtaposition of two holidays, each vying for attention, has created a bit of a controversy. Some people embrace the early decorating for Christmas, while others, like myself, believe we should celebrate each holiday as it comes and to not rush things.
Is it possible that we have chosen to rush past Thanksgiving, because we aren’t thankful? Or because it is only a single day, not an entire season. I have heard arguments for both viewpoints. But it has paused me to think about it.
And I have to admit, I have not been in a very thankful mindset lately. I have complained about everything costing so much, thanks to inflation. The budget gets stressed and pushed and tested. And although I try to look past it, I finally realized that it has taken a toll on my joy and my thankfulness. I’ve tried to ignore for awhile, just rolling with it all, all the while thinking I was handling it all. Managing the budget and my soul.
That is until I was reading my morning devotional, while enjoying my morning cup of coffee, and it was like boom! Time for an attitude check. I realized that I was missing something in all my “managing” of myself. My joy. My peace. And most importantly; my thankfulness. I had replaced all of these with worry, anxiety, and complaining. Nothing extreme, nothing I would speak out loud to many people, but something I knew in my soul. The thoughts I was thinking to myself. The complaining that there wasn’t much extra spending cash available. But, I still want stuff. But why are there so many other necessities to buy? Why does it cost so much? Why aren’t the politicians understanding this is a big deal to most people. We are not rich, but I know it has been a stressor for us. I can only imagine how single parents and the elderly are dealing with all this inflation.
Maybe that is it. The reason for the early invasion of Christmas over Thanksgiving. People are wanting hope. Wanting peace. The peace that the birth of Jesus brought. And how are we supposed to be thankful anyway. What is there to be thankful for? Houses are not affordable. Food prices are high. Gasoline is expensive. Covid is still around.
But, Jesus’ birth is the reason we should have a grateful, thankful heart. He is our peace. He is our hope. He is our salvation. We are not helpless. We are not hopeless.
I have realized that this is what I have forgotten. Well, not forgotten per se, but just set aside, while I turned from my focus on Jesus, to my focus on myself, my stresses, anxieties and worries. It can be so subtle. Like when driving a car, and you see something on the side of the road. It catches your attention, so you turn towards it, only to quickly be brought back to the task at hand- driving- when the car ahead suddenly stops. You immediately are brought back to focusing ahead, rather than to the side of the road.
It is not until you are forced to turn back, that you realize, you head drifted your focus to the side of the road. Hopefully you stop in time to prevent a collision with the car ahead. So, my devotional was like the stopping of the car ahead of me. Whoops!Time to focus back on God, instead of allowing it to drift towards complaint, worry, stress, anxiety. I traded joy and thankfulness for a brief side view of my problems.
The problems will still be there. Inflation. Holiday stress. Traffic. Difficult people. They are still vying for my attention from the side of the road.Waving at me to look at them. But, just like safe driving; I must keep my eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of my faith; Jesus. The journey ahead is what I need to focus on- even though some might think this means to race past Thanksgiving, it doesn’t.
I am not giving permission to race ahead of Thanksgiving to celebrate Christmas already. I want to take my time. Be still. Keep each holiday to itself. And quiet the complaining thoughts in my head. Remind myself what I have to be thankful for this year. Change my perspective.
When I change my perspective, shifting my eyes back on Jesus, my attitude catches up and I realize I have a lot to be thankful for this year. My budget is squeezed, but I can still travel to the store and buy food. My family is coming to celebrate. I have lost loved ones, but also celebrate the newest family member, my granddaughter. These problems will pass by, and will probably be replaced with problems. But, I can always choose to keep focused on Jesus to get through it all. Jesus is the best reason of all to be thankful this year. He is with me. He knows my problems, nothing comes as a surprise to Him, so I can rest and trust He has got this.
What are you thankful for?
God bless you- Nancy