The annual gathering happened two days before Thanksgiving.
Each year, most of the churches in the small town where I pastored gathered for a community Thanksgiving service. A different church hosted the event each year, and the various pastors rotated preaching the Thanksgiving sermon. Following the worship time, we gathered in the church’s social hall or family life center for a time of fellowship and food. But then we went home. Often never to see each other again until we had our annual community Easter celebration.
Despite the brevity of the event—and the fact that we wouldn’t see each other for months—I eagerly awaited this gathering each year. Thanksgiving tops the list of my favorite holidays—even though it is the most overlooked. And spending a few moments of it with people from different races, nationalities, denominations, cultures, and social levels makes it more enjoyable.
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus”(1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT).
I don’t know in what season Paul wrote the above command, but he knew nothing about a Thanksgiving holiday. He didn’t need one. He had learned contentment … thankfulness … in all circumstances—and seasons. And God’s will is for every believer to experience the same.
When I attend these community events at Thanksgiving and Easter, I imagine they mirror heaven. A place where race, nationality, wealth, mistakes, emotional states, and age will no longer separate people. A day when the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., will finally come true: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
But the community gathering was more about the mixture and the breaking down of barriers. The lives of all gathered were peppered by a myriad of conditions. Regardless of our personal challenges, we lifted our voices to the God who controls our circumstances and to the One whom we believe involves Himself in all our situations. Our voices blended as we praised Him through song. They synced as we said, “Amen,” to the truths we heard from His Word.
The Thanksgiving season gives us the opportunity to remember God’s plan is always best—regardless of the path we must follow to enjoy it. God doesn’t expect us to be happy about tragedy and heartache, but we can have contentment and gratefulness even in trying situations when we remember He’s in control, has our best interests at heart, and controls the intensity and time of our travels.
This Thanksgiving, why not celebrate by gathering with others and thanking God collectively.