November 20, 2017
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
I thank my God every time I remember you,
In the early 1970s, based on the popular comic strip Peanuts, the first “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” aired on prime-time television.
As a child, watching this show became one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions. As an adult, it was one of the traditions I held dear with my own children. Not only because Linus’ prayer at the dinner table showed how to be thankful at Thanksgiving, but also because Peppermint Patty’s behavior showed how NOT to be.
Peppermint Patty, upon sitting down at the Thanksgiving table, made the honorable suggestion to say grace before they began eating. But her reason for praying was because, “It’s Thanksgiving, you know.”
Peppermint Patty initiated the call to prayer out of perceived obligation, but it was her actions which proved she only had head-knowledge of true thankfulness, not heart-knowledge. As soon as Linus said Amen, she looked around the table and details began to distract her from thankfulness for the gifts they’d been given.
When her expectations of what Thanksgiving should look like didn’t match up with her reality, Patty got upset and irritated. She began to verbally express her dissatisfaction and became annoyed with one of the guests (Snoopy).
She was agitated the food didn’t meet her traditional requirements. She complained and yelled, having quickly forgotten all about Linus’ prayer and the importance of being truly thankful. She became focused on annoyances instead of prayer and true gratitude.
Can you relate?
Unfortunately, this scene is all too familiar in households across the country at Thanksgiving. We have this idea of how we want the holiday to look, but our reality may not match up to our expectations. Difficult circumstances and details can distract us from indebtedness to God.
Today’s key verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, says “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Here we read when we are to be thankful — in all circumstances. And we read why we are to be thankful — because this is God’s will for all believers as He knows a grateful heart is a happy heart. We can be thankful no matter what we’re facing, because God is worthy of our thanksgiving.
In this verse, the Apostle Paul is giving instructions on how to gain heart-knowledge, not just head-knowledge, of true gratitude. We’re to be thankful in the midst of all circumstances, not merely those that are easy and pleasant.
I realize this is far easier said than done. God asks us to trust His ways even when we don’t understand them. We’re to be thankful for the gifts He has given us, not focused on what we don’t yet have.
Rarely do families get through Thanksgiving dinner with perfectly cooked food … children with pristine manners … babies who don’t cry or refrain from picking inopportune times for dirty diapers … siblings who don’t argue … spouses who don’t quarrel … drinks that go un-spilled … or family members in total agreement about which football game to watch.
Some years, families are fractured or even distant memories.
The enemy wants to use all these side details to distract us from what we really should be focusing on: the Giver of the gifts, not the gifts themselves.
During the holidays or any day of the year, I can easily morph into a Peppermint Patty if I’m not careful. I don’t want to be someone who gives thanks with her mouth and not her heart. A person so distracted by the less-than-desired details that she overlooks the indebtedness she should have in her heart for Christ — not just for how He blesses, but for Who He is.
Life’s not always easy, and holidays aren’t always perfect or peaceful. But we can always have a heart full of thankfulness if we remember Who gives us reasons to be thankful, not just what we’re thankful for.
Dear Lord, help me when I start letting details of the holidays, annoying frustrations or unmet expectations distract me from all the reasons I have from You to be abundantly and eternally grateful. Help me have a heart full of thankfulness every day, but especially on the specific day set aside to be grateful for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.