Here in Thanksgiving week of 2020 we have been watching the news and seeing that the Covid-19 virus continues to spike nationally and locally. We also see the hopeful news that a vaccine has been created. This should remind us that there is always something for which we can give thanks to God if we stop and reflect on things long enough. Last spring I heard about a book that I purchased called The Great Influenza by John M Barry.
Though I still have not read it yet, I have heard it reviews the Spanish flu of 1918. The book reminded me even last spring that pandemics are not new.
A few weeks ago, a pastor friend told me the story of a thanksgiving hymn which was written during a European pestilence. The song is “Now Thank We All Our God” by Martin Rinkart. The pastor friend said that this pastor had funeralized many people, including his wife, in his town during a 17th century plague which occurred during the Thirty Years War. Yesterday I was stunned and pleased to see this profiled in an article on the Gospel Coalition site entitled “Don’t Let 2020 Stop Your Thanksgiving.” I am linking it here for your reflection.
We need to understand that according to scripture the ability to give thanks to God is a primary characteristic of the true believer. It is a sign of true regeneration (Psalm 100, especially verse 3-4). The lack of thankfulness, according to the Apostle Paul, is a sign of spiritual degeneration (Romans 1:18-32, especially verse 21). Joseph in Genesis eventually thanked God for the famine of his day (Gen 50:20). Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him (Heb 12:1-2).
Many in our nation and world will express thankfulness for family, for friends, for jobs, for health, for food, for the freedom to eat turkey and watch football (or to not eat turkey or watch football), for clothing and for shelter. These expressions of gratitude are all good…very good. But are they good enough? The challenge that we have, for ourselves and for others, is not to ask the question “for what are you thankful” but the more important question “to whom are you thankful?” If thanksgiving is only horizontal and doesn’t truly become vertical, rising to the heavens to the one who lovingly created us, loves us, provides and protects us, then isn’t it merely patting ourselves on our collective backs?
Oh give thanks unto the Lord for he is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 106:1