Psalm 100 in the scriptures gives us a way to approach God with singing and dancing, with joy, and especially with Thanksgiving.
The Apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters, “In everything give thanks.” The first time we read that, it’s natural to think: “In everything? In loss and fear, in tornados and typhoons?” How can that happen? Does he mean give thanks immediately? Or does he mean, as your life continues and blessings begin to arrive once more, that’s the time to remember to give thanks?
I know there are plenty of things to complain about! We pastors have a joke that says: If everyone’s happy, you won’t be told, but if one person is unhappy, you’ll hear it right away. I wonder if we do the same thing with God?
When we’re happy we just go along with our lives the way things are, but let us be unhappy, frightened, hurt, disillusioned, and then we let him hear about it!
At this time of year, especially, depression hits a lot of people. They’re lonely, or their kids don’t remember them anymore, or they’re having to move when they don’t want to, or they have nowhere to celebrate with family and a meal. Our culture doesn’t help much. We’ve skipped Thanksgiving already, and moved directly to Christmas, do not slow down, do not stop to give thanks –just shop ‘til you drop. And above all, be happy.
Happiness is different from joy and thanksgiving. Happiness depends on what’s happening around us that gives us a sense of importance or worthiness. Joy, on the other hand, is an attitude that begins in Thanksgiving. My mother had what she called her “blessing book” into which at the end of each day she wrote the blessings of that day. Some days she didn’t have a very long list –but every day there was something. An attitude of looking for what’s blessed us helps us to remember to be thankful.
When the first Thanksgiving was declared, over half of the Pilgrims who had come to New England had died their first year here of hunger or illness. They were reduced at times to sharing eight grains of corn per person per day. Gound with acorns and filled with grass, the corn was part of a daily fried cake. Yet after a year, they gathered, they harvested what they had planted, they invited the Wampanoags who had helped them, they went hunting, and they feasted and gave thanks. They gave thanks “in everything.”
We’re in the Thanksgiving season. One of the best ways to give thanks is to try to see to it that someone else has an opportunity to give thanks. We have been fashioned as human beings to enjoy helping each other.
And this particular Thanksgiving season, the Deerfield Valley Food Pantry, which was begun and is supported by the houses of worship in our community, is being hit with a double whammy –no concert at Memorial Hall, and Vermont Food Bank supplies have been cut in half.
I encourage each one of you to visit your house of worship, enter the doors with Thanksgiving, enter the sanctuary with praise. Hear our long history with a God of mercy and grace. And find out where to bring food or where to make an offering to help others in our community give thanks.
Thanksgiving and praise is an attitude and it can be learned through worship and gratitude for life, for days and nights, for seasons. The church father Augustine once wrote: “A Christian should be an alleluia from the top of his head to the soles of his feet.” We bring alleluia to God during this season by attending worship; we are enabled to bring alleluia to our friends and neighbors by supporting our local food pantry, or warm the children or Twice Blessed. ‘Tis the season ….and I don’t mean “to be jolly” –I mean ‘tis the season to give thanks in the best way each of us can.
Rev. Dr. Marcia Dorey is the pastor of the Halifax Union Society.