The Party’s Over – What Now?

I posted this three years ago. This year it is a good reminder to me. Christmas this year was not anything I had anticipated. A few days before Christmas I contacted Covid. All the plans for candlelight service at church and gathering with my daughter and her family for a fun day had to be cancelled. Christmas Eve my husband caught Covid from me and we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day basically sleeping when we were not coughing our heads off.

Our daughter, who normally would have been over – wearing a mask – to bring us food and check on us also had Covid and like me she shared it with her husband.  We are so thankful our granddaughter has remained negative.    So, we were basically on our own.

Spending Christmas alone while we struggled to have enough energy to sit up awhile and wish each other Merry Christmas made this anything but the Christmas we had always enjoyed. Today we are on the mend but still so tired. It will be quite awhile before we will be back to normal. But as I am saddened by no Christmas for us – I am thankful that the real reason for Christmas is still true. In the midst of our sickness, we are minded that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”

Grandma's Ramblings

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Christmas 2019 is history.  My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December.  Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.

Gifts have been given.  Some were, no doubt, a big hit.  Others may have been a disappointment.  Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.

Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.

Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas.  It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of…

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Can We Give Thanks in 2020?

I don’t know where I got this story – so I can’t give proper credit to the writer but it really makes me think as we approach another Thanksgiving season – one that is full of chaos and difficult decisions. Do we keep our gatherings small? Do we ignore warnings and enjoy our family and friends?

“One afternoon a shopper at the local mall felt the need for a coffee break.  She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag.  She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, and then taking the lid off her coffee and taking out a magazine she began to sip her coffee and read.  Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper.   After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie.   As she did, the man seated across the table reached out and took one too.  This put her off, but she did not say anything.

A few moments later she took another cookie.  Once again the man did so too.  Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.  After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie.  So did the man.  She was really upset by this – especially since now only one cookie was left.  Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left.  Before she could say anything he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself.  Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.

Was she steamed!  Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her shopping bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.”

I like that story – it makes me think about how well God treats me even when I am not thinking all that kindly about him. It also makes me think about how, sometimes, I do not really appreciate what I have or act like I know where it has come from.

Our country has been so blessed – but I think we have forgotten to be thankful and to remember the God who has blessed us so.

It reminds me of the story of the Israelites as they came to the land promised to their ancestor, Abraham, years ago. Moses warned them that after they had prospered in the land they were about to enter, had eaten their fill and had fine houses and large herds with silver and gold, that:

Do not say to yourself, “my power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.”  But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, and as he swearing to you today.”

Not so long ago famous people all over the world were polled by a magazine which asked them the question – “if you could be granted one wish that will come true right now – what would that be?” There were some very interesting responses – but one response impressed the magazine’s editors so much that they commented on.   That response was this – “I wish that I could be given an even greater ability to appreciate all that I already have.” 

It is an interesting answer and an interesting thing to wish for.  What do you think would happen if each one of us suddenly became a more thankful person?  If all of us suddenly became a more appreciative people?

This year as we gather for the holiday, many of us will not enjoy the large family gatherings of the past. Some may have lost loved ones to the virus – or their income. For them, it may be hard to be thankful. Most of us are so tired of the restrictions and the arguments that have even split families as we argue about whether or not to wear a mask, follow the restrictions.

It would be so easy to focus on what is wrong while we overview much that is good.

For me, while I hate being limited to where I can go – I am thankful that I have a beautiful, comfortable home to be stuck in.

While I hate that I can’t be with more of my family – I am thankful for the small gathering I will have.

While I hate that my church has gone back to on-line services for the next three weeks – I am thankful that I have the internet and can still hear my pastor share the Word.

While I grieve over friends that have died from the virus – I am thankful that we have a hope of being reunited some day.

While I grieve over friends who have lost jobs – I am thankful for the community that has reached out with food banks and gift cards and other ways to help.

The Early Church suffered affiction and persecution beyond anything we know here in America. Yet the norm and the standard of the early church of the disciples and the apostles was really incredible and it had incredible results in the lives of those disciples and apostles, and in the lives of all those around them.  They rejoiced even when they were being afflicted and persecuted, and their fellowship continually grew until it reached the ends of the earth.

Give thanks in all circumstances.   Give thanks for everything.  Give thanks at all times.  This is a step beyond remembering God and thanking God for all the wealth that we enjoy in this our promised land.  This is a step beyond remembering God and obeying his commands because he has given us fine houses and filled our bellies. 

This is “thanks living” – and it is demanding – and it is rewarding.  I say it is demanding – because quite frankly when I am feeling pressed to the wall I find it difficult to fulfil the word that says:   “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

When I am feeling struck down by some affliction or angry at someone for doing something that seems to me to be thoughtless, I have difficulty feeling grateful to God.

Instead of wanting to praise God – or to pray to him about the situation with thanksgiving, I want to feel sorry for myself and the trouble I am in. Giving thanks blesses the person who is thanked and it transforms the person who gives thanks.  It works the same way everywhere, with everyone when we remember.  When we forget – hard things get harder.  When we allow the situation we are in to swallow us up and to swallow all thought of God’s power and goodness up; when we begin to think we have earned and deserve all the good things we have, and when we forget that God is able to help us in the midst of all the bad things that occur, life becomes bleaker, and true virtue becomes harder to find.

God wants us to celebrate his love.  God wants us to give thanks in everything.  God doesn’t want this because he is greedy for praise, the Lord doesn’t want it so that he will feel better about himself.  He wants it because it will bless us  and because it will bless the world he has made.

He wants us to remember what He has done so that we will not be afraid when we are in need of help, and so that we will not grow arrogant or rude when we are prospering.  He wants us to remember and give thanks to him, and to those around us so that our lives will be full of light and hope and so our actions full of tenderness and love.

As the psalmist declares – “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to his name”