If all goes right, this blog will go out before the Thanksgiving turkey goes in. I pray it is a special day for you and yours, and that you give focus to the many blessings that can elicit great joy when seen in the light of the One who has provided them for us.
Paul had that same desire for the people of Philippi when he penned perhaps the most encouraging directive in the New Testament.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul ties joy, both the spirit and the action, to our awareness and appreciation of all God has done for us. He likewise implies when not given being aware and appreciative of every good and perfect gift, our own spirit makes wonder into a less joyful estate, one certainly unbefitting a follower of the one from whom all blessings flow.
How do we hold onto a joyful, thankful spirit? Paul makes his case if we will look and listen. Hold onto the joy that is found in God. Hold on to the character of Christ, even when tempted believe other traits serve us better. Live in awareness of God’s nearness. Hold on to a practice of prayer that is rooted in thanksgiving.
And lastly, let the peace of God guard your mind and heart. There is your recipe for joy. Easy to print and file away. Easy to recognize and gather the key ingredients. If you mix and cook it up, you can taste and see that it is all so good. And when devoured and digested, these Thanksgiving staples can find their way into every bit of our being, transforming us into the joyful souls we were created to be.
As it does every year, Thanksgiving will give way to Christmas, and for Christ-followers, the four weeks of expectation we call Advent. This year’s theme on our journey to the manger is “Visitations.” God just kept sending all sorts of beings to speak on His behalf. Not a soul in the Christmas drama made it to the curtain without an unexpected visit. We are going to look at these visitations one by one, and learn what God was saying to them. If we listen closely, we can hear what He is saying to us as well. Come visit Sunday and see who else shows up. And like the characters in our stories, you might be quite surprised at what you see and hear.