The months of November and December promise to be a very busy time – in the life of the church, in the home, in the schools, and certainly in the community at large. It is very easy to lose sight of the meaning of the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas with the hectic and exhausting schedules that most of us experience. While it may seem like something we say every year (and, yes, we do usually say it), why don’t we do something differently this year? Why don’t we commit to ourselves and our families that we will spend less money on each other, give the difference to worthy Christian causes that help people in need, and slow down enough to enjoy time with our family and friends and to spend more time with God in prayer, study, worship, and service? This would be a wonderful thing to do in 2018.
Thanksgiving is a civil holiday – technically a secular holiday observed on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. The day, at least in the English tradition, has its roots in the English reformation. In the United States, we can trace the modern Thanksgiving holiday back to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts and to a similar event in 1619 in Virginia. The early settlers to the United States observed days of fasting and thanksgiving. President George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide Thanksgiving celebration marking November 26, 1789 as a day of “thanksgiving and prayer.” On December 26, 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress officially making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November.
We are well aware of the traditions of Thanksgiving – family gatherings, turkey and dressing, special church services, families traveling to parents and grandparents, great food and family fellowship, football and early basketball season, etc. Thanksgiving often gives us more time to enjoy our families and to enjoy a couple of days off from work – as compared to the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Thanksgiving should also be a time in which we give thought to the bounty of the blessings that God has imparted to us – over the past year and over the course of our lives. It is a time to appreciate how truly blessed we are individually and collectively – and we need only compare our situation to that of others – particularly those in other countries around the world – to better understand how truly blessed we are.
Then we move into the Advent season – a time of preparation and anticipation for once again observing the coming of God into the world in the form of His only begotten Son, Jesus, who was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, who became the God-man – the Incarnation or God becoming flesh – Immanuel or God with us – so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Christmas is more than the giving of material gifts, more than snow and Christmas glitter, more than Rudolph and Santa, more than “chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” Christmas is the celebration of the “Christ of Christmas.” It is that time of the year that we once again prepare our hearts and minds for pondering the meaning of the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago – when we once again are reminded that God has intervened in the course of human history by becoming man and living a human life – and then sending “His only begotten Son” to Calvary to die a sinner’s death so that we might have eternal life. He arose from the grave on the third day, ascended into heaven, and will return for His church someday!
Let’s take this this season to give God all the praise, honor, and glory that He – and He alone – merits! He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Savior and Lord, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, and the Messiah! Praise the Lord!