Yes, that is my headline for Thanksgiving this year and I’m sticking to it! We have a whole lot more to be grateful for this year than we can even imagine! Sure, it  may look dark and dismal right now, and it has been a gut-wrenching, even tragic, year in  our land. You may be sick and tired of being confined and masked for a good portion of your  day. You are probably fed up with the lack of political civility. And you should be concerned  about the state of our democracy and the struggle to extend the promises of our Founders  to all people in our land.  

But then consider what the Apostle Paul was going through when he wrote these words:  “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thes. 5:16- 18)  

Paul wrote those words while he was sitting in a dark, dank prison, chained in place and not  knowing if there was any hope for him to survive. His life’s calling, to plant churches of Jesus  followers throughout the known world, may be coming to an end, falling miserably short!  But still, he urges those he loves to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks. As my friend Bruce  Condill likes to translate these words of Paul: “Brothers and sisters, it doesn’t get any better  than this!”

You see, Paul knew the secret between being a person thankful for just the good things in  life, and being a person grateful for life itself – including everything that goes with it. You  don’t have to be a person of faith to be thankful for the good stuff in your life. But, as Paul  says, to be “thankful in ALL circumstances,” that’s quite a different thing. That takes a  person of great faith.  

It seems to me that “gratefulness” is the spiritual condition of a heart given over to the Lord.  Otherwise, we end up being thankful for only the things that help us and that we prefer …  and that’s not a spiritual trait at all. That’s just plain old self-centeredness, which Jesus  warns us about over and over in His gospels.  

So, this year for Thanksgiving, I propose that we become “Grateful Pilgrims”; People of faith  who are thankful in ALL circumstances — even the circumstances we’re in today.  Gratefulness is the gift that gets us through the tough times, and that leaves us being better  people for having gone through the hardships.  

People of faith understand that enduring tough times is not only part of living life on life’s  terms, but it actually strengthens our faith and instills in us the hope that we can get  through anything … with God. Indeed, when we look at it that way, the tough times are the  things we should be most grateful for. Not thankful for … but grateful for.  

As you look back on the journey you have walked in your life, can you see that the tough  times were really the defining moments in your faith life, and that you wouldn’t be the  person you are today, or even have the life that you have today, if you hadn’t endured  through the hardships? And can you also see how that perseverance has molded and  solidified your relationship with God over the years? That shouldn’t make you thankful for  the hardships, but it should make you grateful for having gone through them.  

So, as you gather around the table, or around the Zoom screen, on this Thanksgiving, and  you ponder what possibly you could be thankful for this year – think about these tough  times as opportunities to grow closer to God, to strengthen your faith and trust in Jesus, and  to move from being a person who is thankful for only the good things in life, to one who is  grateful for life itself, with everything included; Or, as Paul puts it, “to be thankful in all  circumstances.” 

Friends and neighbors, take a look around. Think of the people who have come and gone  that mean everything to you. Think of all the great memories, and the ones you’re making  today. Think of the blessings of food and shelter … and of good friends. Think of the freedom  we enjoy and the beauty of all creation. And then look into your heart, and see your Lord  and savior always there with you … in ALL circumstances. So yes, I do think it’s fair to say: It  doesn’t get any better than this … so let’s make the most of it!  

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Grateful to be Your Pastor,  

Pastor Bob