This week I was out and about gathering supplies for Thanksgiving dinner, and as expected the store was full of other like-minded shoppers. But as I wheeled my cart through the crowded aisles, I began to notice something missing.
Oh yes, as you would expect, there were stacks of cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes in abundant supply, but the shelves were mostly jam packed with all manner of Christmas-themed merchandise. Red and green candy, outdoor lights, and sparkly decorations of all sorts had supplanted the pumpkins, autumnal colors and the last of the apple-cinnamon spiced candles. As I reflected on this, I realized that this year I’ve also seen an inordinate number of posts on social media from people informing the world that they had already put up their Christmas trees… two weeks or more before Thanksgiving! And the ads on TV have in most cases announced that Black Friday Christmas shopping now starts on Thursday (aka, Thanksgiving day!)
Now I realize that all this hurry-up mentality is driven by advertisers and retailers, vying for our attention (and dollars) in the arena of this over-commercialized gift-buying season, but I think that we as a culture have been duped into adopting a mindset that is far less innocent and potentially more destructive than it may appear. We (believers included) always seem to be racing to ‘the next big thing” or holiday obligation. No longer are we disposed to stop and savor a moment…. to hang around over an extra cup of coffee… to listen to a retelling of a memory… to stay just a little longer and enjoy the company of those in our presence right now.
How different is our attitude today from the picture that we see in the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life. Never is there one incident where we’re told that He ‘hurried’ to Jerusalem, or ‘rushed’ to Bethany, or ‘left early’ from Mary & Martha’s house to go to the next place that needed His attention. (While Jesus did slip away from time to time, it was almost always to retreat to prayer.) Even when the circumstances appeared to be desperate enough to justify a hurried response, the scripture says “when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days” (John 11:6)
Obviously there was more going on in that situation than just hanging back for a little R&R, but you get the point, right? If Jesus, who had only three years to deliver the most important message in all eternity, didn’t find it necessary to rush around or push aside what was in front of him to get to the next thing on the calendar, why should we?
Maybe we need to shift our priorities a little this year and try to make room for the one thing that Jesus always made time for… people. So, take a minute to dwell on a few scriptural reminders that can help you stay focused on the now, instead of jumping to what’s next.
Cultivate gratitude. (Col 3:16)
It changes how you view the past, present and future.
Develop the discipline of rest. (Isaiah 30:15)
You cannot hear the still, small voice of God if your life is constantly filled with activity and noise and will often miss what’s really important that may be right in front of you.
Waiting on the Lord is never a waste of time. (Psalm 37)
Even when it doesn’t seem like anything is happening in the moment, be patient where you are, knowing that God is always at work to accomplish His plans.
Don’t let fear have the final word. (2 Tim. 1:7)
Sometimes we can’t appreciate what’s going on around us now because we’re afraid of missing out on something happening elsewhere. Trust God’s timing. Even when the feelings of anxiety and worry surface, you can choose to believe or reject their influence on your mind and will.
You matter more than you think you do. (Rom 8:29-32)
What is valued by the world is rarely the same as what is valued by God. Do everything (including shopping, cooking and celebrating) as unto the Lord and He will multiply and reward your faithfulness according to His will.
So please accept this encouragement as we enter into this season of celebration to make a concerted effort to do a few simple things. Put down the cell phone. Pull back from social media. Watch less TV (yes… even that rivalry football game). Instead, take a walk. Tell a story. Play a game. Linger a little longer as you embrace the moment you have now, trusting that God will take care of tomorrow. It will help you appreciate the cornucopia of blessings that our Father has heaped on each of us. And in that recognition, truly strive to be thankful!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)