A version of this article was first published in Worship Leader magazine (Nov/Dec 09). For more great articles like this one, subscribe today.
Wow, has this been a year? Now as we approach some of the year’s most important Holy-days, we’re in the season of remembering. Of course, we want to remember to be thankful every day not just on Thanksgiving. We want to celebrate Christ’s birth into a fallen world perpetually, not just on Christmas, but sometimes we forget. The way we forget that our church on the local corner (or online, if we’re getting progressive) is not the only expression of worship in the world—for which I am grateful. Although I love my church, I’m thankful that our God speaks thousands of languages and hears worshipers in a zillion heart languages as they sing with one voice the praises of our Triune God.
It seems that in recognizing God-with-us in all circumstances, Thanksgiving takes on a two-sided bittersweetness: we remember and rejoice for the circumstances that brought comfort, joy, and peace, but we grieve for our personal losses and the losses of those we love.
For Christ, who endured death on the cross because of the joy set before him, entering this earthly realm was probably bittersweet, as well. We are so thankful He came, so glad he died for us, but so sorry it was necessary. Paradox.
My prayer is that as we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, we will be buoyed up by the wonder of paradox and that we will not allow the bitter to weigh down the sweet. Sometimes the sacrifice of thanksgiving is exactly that. But we have this assurance: when we offer thanks and praise, God inhabits our praises. He brings His righteousness, peace, and joy. A Scripture that never grows old no matter how many times I hear, read, or sing it, captures both reasons for giving thanks and a portrait of the true gift of Christmas for me. Isaiah 61:1-4 acknowledges life’s paradox and pain and points us toward healing hope:
The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness”
planted by God to display his glory.
They’ll rebuild the old ruins,
raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They’ll start over on the ruined cities,
take the rubble left behind and make it new (Isaiah 61:1-4
(Isaiah 61:1-4 The Message)
Chuck Fromm is the publisher of Worship Leader magazine and CEO of Worship Leader media.