"We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count."
Neal A. Maxwell
"When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves--that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience."
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God oft y salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds' feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
O Heavenly Father who hast filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer
November is here. Some are thrilled that we are moving into the holiday season. Others are stressed at the thought of preparing for the holidays. This is nothing new. Neither is November’s annual reminder to give thanks.
We are called to give thanks. It is a theme that runs from the Old Testament through the New. The Bible is God’s revelation to us and for our benefit. It reveals a God who is glorious and worthy of praise, at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances. But beyond that, Scripture introduces us to a God who is as personal as He is glorious. Please consider with me just a few of the many, many examples offered in Scripture. The LORD God breathed air into Adam’s lungs and shared the Garden of Eden with the man and the woman (Genesis 2); He tried to coax Cain to turn away from his murderous thoughts (Genesis 4); He allowed both Abraham and Moses to “negotiate” with Him (Genesis 18; Numbers 14); He satisfied Gideon’s need for reassurance (Judges 6); He engaged in a personal conversation with a rebellious Jonah (Jonah 4). And of course, the LORD used individual, faithful men and women to accomplish His will. He worked in the lives of Eli and Samuel to lead Israel and (eventually) put David, a man after God’s own heart, on the throne and establish David as the progenitor of the Messiah (I Samuel and II Samuel). He used Esther to save the Jews from a hateful Haman (Esther). He guided Elijah to reveal the power of the LORD to the people of Israel so that they would turn away from Baal (I Kings 18). And if God’s personal attention, time after time after time, wasn’t enough, the Father’s only begotten Son, the second member of the eternal Trinity, Christ Jesus, became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1).
First and foremost, the Gospels reveal a Jesus who spent His days touching and being touched. Jesus opened His arms to those who had been dismissed, rejected, or neglected by their families and communities. He heals lepers (by touching them!) calls tax collectors, and welcomes children. One of my favorite “personal” Jesus stories is found in the Gospel of Mark. As Jesus is ministering to the people who have gathered to see and hear him, a synagogue official named Jairus falls at His feet, begging for healing for his seriously ill daughter. Jesus readily agrees to come to Jairus’s home, but as they head in that direction, they are interrupted by a woman who has been plagued with a hemorrhage problem for many years. The woman is healed as soon as she touches Jesus’s robe. It would be easy for Jesus to leave it at that and continue on His mission to Jairus’s home. But Jesus gently demands a personal conversation with the woman and takes time with her to personally reinforce her faith. I can only imagine the impatience and panic within Jairus as he waits for Jesus to finish this impromptu encounter and get to their destination. When they finally arrive and find that Jairus’s daughter has died, Jesus takes care of the problem as only He can do.
And so as we (hopefully) heed the reminder to give thanks, may we turn to our Lord and Savior who is as up close and personal as we will allow Him to be. We are invited to approach the throne of grace with confidence. As we do so, the perfunctory, generic “thank you,” “praise to you,” “praise God from Whom all blessings flow” phrases don’t quite do the job. It behooves us put time, energy, and effort into pursuing our Lord and pouring out our hearts to Him. We don’t need to have King David’s eloquence. We have been assured that when our words fail, the Spirit will intercede for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).
As we pursue Jesus, we will find that He has been pursing us! Praise the Lord! May we truly draw near to Him in faith, offering Him the deepest recesses of our hearts. And when we do, something amazing happens. Those who look forward to the holidays are able to celebrate more fully and joyfully; and those who are stressed at holiday preparation can lean on a Lord who genuinely cares about their stress and can help them see beyond it.