“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30
Back-to-back holidays (in America, Thanksgiving and Christmas) doesn’t leave much time for people to rest and take a break. It can be a mad rush to get ready for Thanksgiving with travel, shopping, seasonal events, and get togethers; and things don’t stop until the new year when everyone returns to their regular daily grind. But if we as Christians slow down we can use the Thanksgiving weekend as a time to begin the Advent season with a spirit of gratitude.
Consider using the Thanksgiving long weekend as a time to prepare for the upcoming weeks of Advent. Beyond giving thanks for your family, friends, and the material goods that you have; how have you seen God at work in the very troubled world that we live in? Give thanks.
If you haven’t already, consider making intentional time to be engaged in Advent reflections this season.
Advent has 3 components: past, present, and future. We can give thanks for all three stages.
Thank you, Lord, for your first arrival and being the much needed and anticipated light and hope in the midst of darkness.
Thank you, Jesus, for your spirit being with us in the present.
Thank you, Jesus, for your promise to return. We live and wait with prayerful anticipation as we live in your kingdom come.
We survived another Arctic spell of dark, freezing, cold, snow filled weather. We survived temperatures in the -30s and a few different episodes of colds and flu’s.
When the weather hit single digits, it was like living in the tropics. It was also a bonus to see that slowly, the darkness of winter is loosening its grip. The sun is now setting closer to 5pm, and we are no longer leaving for or arriving from work in darkness. When you live in the North, these “little” things make a huge difference.
During these colder and darker times people in my city tend to gravitate towards warm, comforting foods. Various chili recipes, soup, mashed potatoes, lasagne, anything that’s made in the oven, and hot beverages all day long. We also tend to spend more time indoors. Here we consider it to be about making the most out of winter; in other places they call it Hygge.
“Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special. Whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it then lingering over a cup to a cosy evening in with friends to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal. Hygge is being aware of a good moment whether it’s simple or special.” (Source: http://hyggehouse.com/hygge)
I admire and agree with the concept of hygge, but I don’t like how it has been marketed to North Americans. I see pictures in Facebook posts, social media, and news articles, and it all seems like a giant Ikea catalogue with people dressed in Old Navy outfits. I might be old fashioned, but I don’t want to constantly feel the need to live a Facebook worthy life. The moments I appreciate the most aren’t usually capable of being photographed.
When I was in my early 20s there was no Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat. Your gratitude was reduced to pen and paper, prayer time, or slipped into conversations with friends.
Do we really need new trendy words to remind us to be grateful for what we have? Do we need new social media trends to prevent us from forgetting to take care of ourselves and find moments of calm and quiet at some point during our waking hours? Some people might truly need these visual reminders, but as believers in God, I don’t think we need to constantly post our hygge, mindfulness activities, gratitude journals, or any other tangible items on social media.
St. Paul has some spiritual advice and encouragement for believers, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
A Christians, I don’t believe we are called to be trendy; instead we are called to live a lifestyle of gratitude. Thankful to God for what we do have in our lives and thankful to others for being a part of our lives. Thankfulness for being alive, a new, fresh start with each day we are given life.
We have a lifestyle of thankfulness, not a social media trend.
I encourage you to read Psalm 103 and take some time to Bless the Lord in gratitude for all that you have. The things you are grateful for may not be worthy of a photo, but that is not what gratitude is about.
If I was forced to upload my “hygge” moments onto social media, it would not look pleasant. My hygge collage over the past few weeks would consist of: Kleenex, Tylenol Sinus, lip balm, my humidifier, and a few loads of laundry that I managed to complete in one day. This may seem like an odd list of things to be thankful for and find comfort in, but I believe it’s important that as Christians we not allow social trends to determine what we are thankful for and how we give thanks to God and others.
I want to challenge and encourage you to find room in your heart to be thankful for and find comfort in things that are not glamourous, trendy, expensive, or even beautiful. When your gratitude is focused on God you will find a lot more things to be thankful for.
I’ve recently started reading through the book of Leviticus from the Hebrew Scriptures. This book lists the standards and expectations of worshiping God in the sanctuary. Reading through the first several chapters was a reminder to me of how much work was involved in bringing burn offerings, grain offerings, and sin offerings to God.
I have a difficult enough time bringing a side dish to an after church potluck, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like, having to bring a bull, sheep, or a goat to the sanctuary. I’m classified as low income, so my offering would be a grain product and some olive oil. This is one of the rare occasions where living below the national poverty line is a benefit.
There are Christians who feel religiously evolved, maybe even superior because we no longer have to bring items to our contemporary place of worship as an offering to God. Weekly sermons often remind us that God wants our hearts, not our sacrifices. I wouldn’t want to return to the practice of bringing offerings to our place of worship, but I can’t help but feel as if something might have been lost when Christians decided at some point to stop the practice of animal and grain offerings; instead, replacing it with financial offerings.
What would happen if we had a modern version of offerings? What would you bring to the sanctuary and place at the altar and into the fire resulting in a “pleasing odor to the LORD” (Leviticus 3:5)? There are weeks when my schedule is filled with too many activities, fatigue sets in and my eating habits become less than ideal. My sacrifice before the LORD would consist of left-over takeout, green smoothies, and kettle popcorn. I’m not a regular meat eater, there would be no sweet fragrance of cooked meat filling the air. The alter at my church would be filled with a typical Alberta diet of steak, various cuts of beef, pork, potatoes, and a representation of every major fast food franchise in the city. I can see why church goers are content with swapping food offerings for financial offerings. Bringing a portion of our food consumption to church as a sacrifice to God could lead to competitive behaviour and unnecessary shame, but something more important and godlier could happen; we might make a lifestyle change and take better inventory of what we consume and how we spend our money.
Do you habitually spend money on unhealthy foods? Are your funds going towards takeout meals or pre-packaged foods?
I don’t want to return to the religious practice of food sacrifice because I believe it does not fit with modern living and our current culture, not to mention, it was bloody, messy, and used costly food that could have been given to those who were poor for a meal. I also don’t believe God wants a literal sacrifice of our food.
What I’ve Learned From Reading About Food Sacrifices (The Positive):
Food consumption is a form of worship.
He has given us enough food on this earth to feed every single human being; lack of food for survival should never have to happen.
Consume what your body needs and share with others.
We have much more freedom about our food choices than previous followers of God; however, let’s not let that be a reason for us to habitually consume unhealthy foods and forget to give God praise and thanksgiving for the good food we are fortunate enough to be able to eat.
QUESTION: If you were bringing a food offering to God that consisted of your meals from the past two weeks, what would your offering look like? Is thanksgiving a regular part of your eating ritual? What do you think about the past practice of animal and grain offerings?
ACTION CHALLENGE: For the next three days create your own practice of thanksgiving for all the foods and beverages you consume. Before you eat something consider what it is you’re thanking God for. (e.g. The ability to be able to purchase the food, thankfulness that you have an accessible food bank, fresh locally grown produce, being healthy enough to have an appetite, etc.)
Consider giving a modern type of food offering to God by sharing with others (e.g. Donating food to a local food bank, having people over for dinner without asking anyone to bring anything, bringing some healthy baked goods to work or a group that you attend, donating food to a local soup kitchen or shelter, etc.)
May you be blessed with a renewed feeling and experience of gratitude and worship as you consume your meals this week. Let us give thanks for all we are provided with. Peace.