By Dot Bowen
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Luke 22:17-19 (NIV)
Thanksgiving is our opportunity to reflect on the many things for which we are thankful. Many of my friends will be celebrating this Thanksgiving with a grieving heart. Many of you have lost a loved one this year, and this will be your first holiday without them. I want you to know I am grieving with you. I don’t want to come across as insensitive in saying we must give thanks in all things. Giving thanks is important even if we give thanks with a heavy heart. I believe this is what giving thanks as an act of worship means. You may find comfort in knowing Jesus gave thanks right before He was beaten, nailed to a cross, and forsaken by His friends and His Father. Remember when Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples? As they reclined at the table, Jesus began the evening saying one of His disciples would betray Him. Then He took bread and gave thanks. This may not have seemed that odd until He told them the bread represented His body. He then took a cup and gave thanks again, telling His disciples that the wine represented His blood that would be shed for the sins of many. I understand and appreciate Jesus wanting to warn His disciples about what was about to happen, but why offer God thanks for the cross? How could Jesus give thanks when He was about to experience a horrific death?
I looked at a few of the miracles Jesus performed. Before each miracle, Jesus gave thanks for the opportunity to glorify the Father. Of course, Jesus—God’s Son—wanted to glorify His Father. But, I wonder, as a follower of Christ, shouldn’t we also want to glorify God? A light went off in my mind as I remembered 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” It may seem impossible to live out these verses until we understand it’s not our circumstances we are to be thankful for. We can be thankful knowing God can use our circumstances to glorify Himself in our situation. We serve a God who is able to use all things and turn them into something one day we will see as good. Whatever is happening in your life and my life today has the potential to give God glory and us joy. There is purpose in our lives.
There’s a lot happening in the world today that’s not good. But we can still have an attitude of praise and thanksgiving because God is good. This Thanksgiving, its time to give thanks for what is really important. We have a Savior who loves and cares for us. Jesus gave thanks in all circumstances—even in the cross. As you enjoy Thanksgiving, my prayer for you and me is that we look at our present circumstances and say, I may not understand how this will turn out for good, but I believe God will make all things good in His time. And by faith, we can be thankful. I love what the French philosopher and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said: “Joy is not the absence of pain, but the presence of God.” We can be thankful for a God who makes all things work together for His glory, and in time, see it is for our good. Because of this I say, “Happy Thanksgiving!”
Further Reading Luke 22:14-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:16