Being Thankful After Thanksgiving


{This is a devotional I recently wrote for the women at our church, Providence.  It is being reposted here with permission.}  

Literally, no sooner had we cleaned our plates on Thanksgiving Day than the stores opened their doors and the Christmas season commenced.

It’s enough to give anyone festive whiplash.  Our culture subtly whispers, “That’s plenty of gratitude for one day, everyone.  Back to regularly scheduled programming: consumerism.”

Not only do we use December to fill our Amazon carts and empty our wallets, we busy ourselves recreating recipes and holiday décor seen on Pinterest.  We attend the parties.  We coordinate travel.  We make the cookies.  We may or may not Google “couple’s therapy” after setting up the Christmas tree.  Tis the season, fa la la la la!

I rarely think of December as a month of rest- physically, spiritually, or otherwise.  I wonder, though, what it would look like if this year was different.  What if we intentionally slowed down the demands of our calendars and laid down the weight of holiday expectations to find true rest in Jesus this season, giving him thankfulness and praise rather than disregard and grumbling?

Psalm 100 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Out of praise to God, the psalmist exhorts his readers using this pattern: “This is what we do (v1,2) because this is who God is (v3).  This is what we do (v4) because this is who God is (v5).”  The psalmist clearly knows who God is and the nature of His character.  In these few verses, God is exalted as being our Creator, our Shepherd, a good God, always faithful, full of steadfast love, and worthy of all of our thanks and praise.  If we too know God in such an intimate way, how can we not respond with gratitude and praise, especially in our celebration of Christ’s birth?

Even though Christmas is commercialized as being “merry and bright”, we know that sometimes “disillusion and chaos” more accurately describes real life.  Fortunately, being thankful doesn’t require you to first be happy.  You can be in a tumultuous circumstance or season of life and still find that the Lord, He is God, and He has given us so many reasons to be thankful.

Consider the impact of gratitude on these aspects of the holidays:

  • When our schedules are busy and to-do lists are impossibly long, thankfulness helps us navigate the chaos with a renewed perspective, shifting our reliance from self to God.
  • When our expectations for the holiday season are built up, only to end up unmet, thankfulness provides a sense of reassurance that God is faithful and good, like he was yesterday, is today, and will be tomorrow, even when things don’t turn out the way we expect.
  • When travel is stressful due to delayed flights, traffic jams, or children screaming in car seats, thankfulness can replace anxiety with the reminder of good gifts, that you have the money to fly, a car to drive, and children safely tucked into car seats.
  • When self-pity creeps in to your holiday season because you aren’t able to celebrate with the people you love, thankfulness offers comfort in loneliness and encouragement in His presence.
  • When relationships with family members create tension and conflict, thankfulness softens our hearts to focus less on feeling inconvenienced, annoyed, or offended, and helps us consider how we can patiently show the love of Christ to someone who is loved by Christ.

Choosing to show thankfulness doesn’t necessarily mean our other feelings have to be invalidated.  However, gratitude works in these refining moments to teach us how to take our eyes off of ourselves and look to God with a full heart for who He is and what He’s done.

This Advent season, join me in setting aside laziness, indifference, unbelief, and distraction, to embrace the call in Psalm 100.  Let’s enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, if for no other reason than for this- that He would be compelled by His steadfast love and faithfulness to enter into our broken world and provide the perfect and only way for us to have a relationship with Him.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14