We're entering the season of Thanksgiving! Canadians will celebrate on October 9, and Americans on November 23 this year. It's a time to give thanks for the harvest, and it’s also a good time to remember that throughout the year there are many things for which to be thankful. That can be easy to forget, so it’s helpful to practice noticing things each day that can inspire gratitude.
Once you get going with this noticing, it can actually be difficult to stop. For example, I’m thankful for the cone flowers in my garden that are still bright pink even as the mountain ash tree leaves are turning a lovely coral. I’m thankful for several finches, a handful of white and monarch butterflies, and a few bees still feasting on the flowers in my backyard despite the cooler weather lately. I’m thankful for eyes to see all of these beauties. I’m thankful for a place to live which came with such a sweet garden to enjoy. I’m thankful for work that lets me afford a place to live. I’m thankful that I enjoy my work. I’m thankful to work with wonderful co-workers….You see how you can go on and on once you start.
And if life and health and beauty in our everyday life weren’t enough, we can think on eternal things. Our good and loving God created a universe of unspeakable beauty and variety. When it was marred by sin and brokenness almost beyond recognition, he made a plan to redeem it. He shared whispers and promises of the coming redemption to reassure his people. Through millennia of painful history, it became clear that humanity’s best efforts were not enough to restore creation; any goodness left after the fall seemed overwhelmed by tyranny, cruelty, pettiness, apathy, despair.
Then God stepped into his creation, light into darkness. He spoke of the Kingdom. Walking around, one of us, he told us about lost things found, he healed people’s illnesses and injuries, he fed hungry people. But then he was killed. Arrested, interrogated, tortured, nailed to a cross until he died. The hope that had started shining was snuffed out like a tiny candle in a great dark world.
But (oh, wonderful thought!) God wasn’t finished. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Jesus conquered death, rising from the grave after three days. Immanuel, our “God with us” is with us in all things, even death, and we will be with him in resurrection.
In the meantime, deep shadows remain. Exploitation, greed, disdain for life and dignity, violence, and evils of all kinds create a gloom that can seem impenetrable. But God’s people can carry his light into the dark places, and one day the sun will rise fully. Death and destruction will be cast down forever, the Kingdom will be fully restored, and, in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “everything sad will come untrue” (The Return of the King).
When the darkness is thick around you, reflect on the coming Light, and be thankful.