Do you ever find yourself on the day after Christmas or Thanksgiving thinking, “Why did I just do all of that?” I have! As I’ve stepped into adulthood, I find it harder and harder to appreciate what it is we’re celebrating on these special days without getting caught up in all the “things” to be done. So, even as I am writing a devotional on gratitude, I am thankful for this moment to pause and reflect on what it means to celebrate Thanksgiving.

An epistle that comes to mind when I think of this holiday is Philippians. You don’t necessarily see the word “thankful” come up much, but in my mind, praise and thanksgiving are practically synonymous, and praise is littered throughout Philippians. In fact, the word that comes up many times in the epistle is the word “rejoice.” The emphasis on rejoicing is really the whole focus of Paul in this letter, which is possibly the most joyful book (I have encountered) in the Bible. Paul is filled with so much joy that he can even genuinely say to those at Philippi, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Neither the terrors of death nor the suffering of life can phase Paul in the slightest. To him, they are only opportunities for better things ahead, as Paul says (regarding the things of this world), “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8).

In the vein of this theme of rejoicing, and since Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, I thought it appropriate to quote the wisdom of one of our American forefathers, John Adams (as depicted in an historical adaptation of his life). After years of struggle, suffering and political maneuvering to help form the budding nation of the United States of America, Adams is very near death’s door in one of the closing scenes of HBO’s John Adams. He verges on moments of senility that clearly make his son (who’s walking beside him) a bit nervous. However, at one point in his soliloquizing to his son, he gets extremely passionate and excited; he pulls his son close, and whispers, “Rejoice evermore!” (1 Thess. 5:16) He then repeats himself, whispering a bit louder, “Rejoice evermore!” He finishes by slamming the cane he’s using into the ground and shouts to the skies, “Rejoice evermore!” His son laughs at his father’s antics, but Adams adds, with a bitter tone of regret, “I wish that had always been in my heart and on my tongue.”

At the end of his life, what Adams regrets most is not allowing his joy and gratitude towards God to permeate his every waking moment. I think at this point, Adams realizes that when we rejoice, when we see our lives and this world with the perspective of a child of God who has everything he or she could possibly need or want in Christ Jesus, all the things we thought were really important fade away in the face of eternity with Him. So, this Thanksgiving, let’s not forget to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”!

Ashley Carr

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