I know Thanksgiving has already come and gone and everyone has already put up their Christmas tree, but I feel like there was something I missed. Tonight with Emmaus Life’s smaller group (called “Villages”), we discussed a little about our “thankfulness journals” (daily logs of various things we’re thankful for), but more so about the prosperity gospel – the belief that God will constantly bless you with more. I discussed this a few posts ago, but there’s a different element that came to mind tonight at the Lambs’ place. I think it deals more specifically with the root differences between the gospel of Jesus and the prosperity gospel.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, there was a meme I saw several times on Facebook highlighting the fact that on one day everyone gathers together to be grateful for things we already have, but then rush right out at midnight the next day for countless deals and purchasing of more things. What this means to me is that Thanksgiving isn’t really celebrated as its own season. It’s just a day where you eat until you explode, watch a couple football games, and sleep whenever you aren’t eating or watching football (it’s dangerous if you try to multi-task).
I know it’s almost been two weeks since Thanksgiving, but I’m a little bugged by how it’s treated year after year. It really is meant to be a time of the year where we reflect over the various things we’ve been given in life and how different our lives have been since we’ve received that gift. And yet it feels like we, as an American culture, rush right through it to get to the gift-receiving season of Christmas. We go from the one day of gratitude to the twelve (more like twenty-something) days of greed.
What I can’t help but notice is how Thanksgiving is a holiday that comes before Christmas. It’s as though Thanksgiving is really a pair of glasses we put on as we enter the gift-giving season of Christmas. It’s as though we’re meant to come to each other – let alone coming to God – with gratitude, with thanksgiving for all the things and circumstances and situations that have made us who we are, so that we may change the way we give to others – so that we change the way we give to God.
Tonight at Villages we talked about our American mindset of “rights” and this sense of entitlement – that when it comes to things like owning guns, having money, being able to speak our minds, etc., that we have the right (the entitlement) to do so. And if the American world is all you’re living for, then have at it. But what the American world claims for itself is different than what God’s people claim for themselves. For here in America, we have the Bill of Rights. But God’s people – true lovers and followers of God – know that there is no such as “rights.” Instead, we have gifts.
Even the breath I am breathing now is not something I have earned. Yes I’ve worked hard at my job and yes I’ve shown love to my neighbor, but nowhere in all of that have I done anything to earn God’s favor. I did not force God’s hand to grant me certain things. He just did – even when I didn’t want to receive them.
God’s kingdom begins with total depravity – the recognition that you have absolutely nothing to offer Him that He would ever need. There are not tasks which we could do to put God in our debt for everything we’re able to do was given to us by His power and grace. The tree does not owe its branches anything; they grow because it grows.
As this Christmas season shifts into full gear, put on the lenses of thanksgiving. Reflect on the things you were thankful for on Thanksgiving. Add to them. Think of something you’ve been thankful for maybe even within the last minute. Do whatever is needed to set your mind on the mindset of Christ and how everything we have is a gift from Him. And then, once you’ve done all that, go out and share it. We do a lot of “sharing” online, how about we do it in person for this Christmas season?