thanksgiving

Four Lessons for our Thanksgiving Family Gatherings

Four Lessons for our Thanksgiving Family Gatherings

Let me provide a few practical lessons from Philippians as you all will soon gather with loved ones for Thanksgiving and have dominion over one of God’s greatest gifts to us, food.

First, beware of a contentious spirit. It has been said that the most contentious table in America is the Thanksgiving table. My expectation for myself and for you is that you treat others with dignity and disagree respectfully. I have said before that our example and our children’s example are the best and most convincing marks of our worldview. Whether we are dealing with fellow believers or unbelievers, we are both called to love them and know when the limit of a conversation has been reached. Paul says that as much as it is possible live in peace with all men. Do not become the one that everyone fears around the table; the one who will turn a question on the weather into a discussion on the teleological necessities of an epistemic self-conscious worldview. Learn to discuss something besides that which everyone knows is the only thing you talk about.

Secondly, keep your eyes open to those who are in need when you gather this coming week. There may have been much pain and sorrow that have transpired in the lives of family members in a space of twelve months. Paul says in chapter two of Philippians: “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love…” You may have the opportunity to be a good counselor to those grieving in your family or to a friend.

Third, practice lots of thanksgiving. Use your traveling this coming week with your family to remember the good things God has done for you. And if you happen to be in a difficult time in your life, give thanks for what God is going to do in your story. Your story is not a one chapter book. It is filled with drama and joy and glory. And if you think our Triune God is done writing your story, you need a bigger view of the God we worship.

Finally, rejoice in a way that would make pagans jealous. A pagan looks at a bottle of wine and says: “I drink for my own satisfaction.” A Christian looks at the same bottle and says: “I drink to the glory of God!” Set a good example of moderation and festiveness. Thanksgiving–not only because of its glorious Christian history in this country– but for many other reasons, is a distinctly Christian celebration. We have reason to rejoice and to give thanks. Let’s feast like Christians!

I Give Thanks

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is filled with thanksgiving. Calvin writes that when Paul refers to things that are joyful he breaks forth in thanksgiving, which, Calvin observes, “is a practice we ought also to be familiar.”

Thanksgiving is the antidote to bitterness and gossip. How often do we falsely accuse others only to boost our own selfish interests? Thanksgiving is the reaction of someone overwhelmed by the goodness of God. It is the by-product of a life-story that echoes praise. Be certain that when bitterness and selfishness arise it is out of an ungrateful heart.

This is another reason worship is so central to the life of the church. Worship is a thanksgiving gathering. The very word we use for the Lord’s Supper, namely Eucharist, means thanksgiving. Worship is practice in giving thanks.