Our church held its annual Thanksgiving service earlier this week, and because of the COVID-19 situation, the turnout was much smaller than normal. And while the virus did not alter the basic format of our Thanksgiving service, it did affect what people shared regarding their personal situations.
Normally when our church body gathers on Sundays, we sing songs of praise, we hear announcements, we offer our donations, we pray, we listen to the pastor’s message, and we sing one final song before being dismissed.
Our Thanksgiving service, however, is much simpler. We still sing, of course, and pray, but we do not have announcements, we do not make donations, and we do not listen to a message from our pastor. Instead, the church members present the message as many of us stand and give thanks to God. I have always enjoyed this unique service because it allows us to publicly acknowledge our appreciation for our families, our health, our welfare, our freedom, and for God’s specific blessings during the year.
This year, too, those who stood and shared gave thanks for all of those same blessings, but many also shared a new and additional component, one caused primarily by the quarantine; that additional component is more time with loved ones.
For instance, one father in our congregation described how he so enjoyed spending so much time with his fifth-grade daughter and his third-grade son. Instead of constantly running off to work or periodically driving his children to outside activities, this family shared all of their meals together and practically all of their free time, and this dad felt so fortunate and blessed with the slower pace of life.
A mom in our congregation expressed a similar sentiment. She felt that she and her two daughters — one in middle school and one in high school — already had a good relationship, but all their recent time together has allowed that relationship to grow to another level, a deeper level. She also added that the entire family has grown closer to Jesus.
Finally, the wife of one of our church elders described how the quarantine has also allowed her to experience an even deeper relationship with Jesus. She explained that she is now more dependent on the Lord, closer to the Lord, and spending more time in His Word. In addition, that deeper relationship with God has prompted her to reach out more to others, especially those who are lonely and afraid.
So, yes, the year 2020 has been one like no other, altering so many aspects of our lives, some much more challenging than others. But as syndicated business columnist Harvey Mackay recently suggested (11/24/2020), instead of lamenting what we don’t have, we should “Start looking around for reasons to be grateful. It won’t take long, and it won’t cost you anything.” He concluded by adding, “Thanksgiving is good, but ‘thanksliving’ is better.”
In other words, Mackay was expressing the same sentiment found in Lamentations 3:22–23: “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (NIV).
Dear Lord, in the midst of these very trying times, please help us all to treasure the additional time we have with our loved ones and to seek an even deeper relationship with You. Amen.