I’m thinking about Thanksgiving as I write this even if Thanksgiving will be over by the time you read it, and praying for a Happy Thanksgiving for you and your loved ones.
Paul, being imprisoned, writes to the Christians in Philippi:
“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Thanksgiving is more than counting specific ways God has “blessed” us: It is more about our attitude toward life itself; more a way to “be”; more about pondering how we are upheld in the tender embrace of the Creator who is the ultimate source of all that is good and beautiful.
In real sense, belief in God does not always guarantee “blessings” in the way we usually expect by that word. Rather, it is more like “living with furious opposites” as Phillip Yancey put it in an essay with the same title:
“I used to believe that Christianity solved problems and made life easier. Increasingly, I believe that my faith complicates life, in ways it should be complicated….Jesus offers a peace that involves new turmoil, a rest that involves new tasks. The ‘peace of God, which transcends all understanding’ promised in the New Testament is a peace in the midst of warfare, a calmness in the midst of fear, a confidence in the midst of doubt.”
The newspapers and TV screens now days are filled with those exact words—warfare, fear and doubt—and words and images related to them in the wake of the horrendous terrorist attacks on the people of Paris and the people on board the downed Russian airliner. The most poignant political debate in our country now is how to be compassionate and welcoming toward the refugees—victims of war and violence—without compromising our national security.
Advent is upon us. God has chosen to come into those darkness, fear, doubt and hopelessness. God has chosen to become human to reach out and touch the suffering humanity with unconditional love, forgiveness; to comfort us and to show us wherein lies the true hope, joy and peace. That God’s name is Emmanuel, God with Us. With the deepest longing of our truthful heart let us sing again: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!”
This world needs hearts set on being with the God of Advent. During this year’s Advent beginning with the first Sunday of Advent on November 29th, we will hold Advent Sunday Vesper Service, focusing on silence, contemplation and prayer. It will be at 5:30 PM in the Wesleyan Chapel downstairs except the Sunday before Christmas. The vesper service begins at 5 PM on the 20th, followed by caroling and a party (see the announcement on Christmas Caroling in this issue of Crosswinds).
Emmanuel: God entering into my, your and the whole of humanity’s sin and sufferings as boldly, vulnerably and nakedly as an infant. I pray that we stop and think about the things, even when our minds are preoccupied with myriad demands of the busy season, that will bring the deep joy and peace.