Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth,
Worship the Lord with gladness; Come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his;
We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)
When I was growing up, the words of this Psalm meant that Thanksgiving Day was approaching, with its turkey dinner at Mama Tucker’s house with aunts and uncles and cousins. Mama Tucker always made everyone of any age tell what they were thankful for before we could eat. And we impatiently heard everyone list family as the thing most thankful for as we watched our food get cold. And we had to eat turkey and vegetables before Aunt Mae’s caramel cake could be served. It meant gathering around the TV to watch the Charlotte Christmas parade and hoping to catch a glimpse of Miss Marshville on her float. It meant going out and playing in the fallen oak leaves, and then maybe a drive to Charlotte to see the lights in the city. Those happy memories bring me joy.
When I married into the Moser family, I learned a new and wonderful way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Both Rick’s parents were only children, and Rick so family meant a small gathering. But I have always said that if anybody knew how to celebrate Thanksgiving, it was Rick’s mother. Her house was always filled with people…a different sort of family. Along with Rick and his sister and their grandmother, there was the housekeeper who had no family at all. The two widow ladies from across the street. A set of unmarried brothers who owned a diner and had no other family. The recently divorced pastor of their church. A couple from England, far from home. She understood what some of us, especially those who are blessed with nearby family, that family can mean many things besides “blood kin.” Thanksgiving was always a joy in Hagerstown.
This year things will be different. Rick and I and our youngest son, Timothy, will be the only ones around the table. The two Massachusetts dwelling sons and their families will be together there, dining outside under borrowed heaters for fear of virus spreading (and then going inside where they will visit with masks and social distancing).
But still, the day we Americans set aside for giving thanks to God for the blessings, great or small, that we share, will come. For some, facing sickness, loss (of family members, jobs, businesses), loneliness, it will be hard. For all of is, it will be different. Yet it can still be a day of counting blessings, being thankful for what has been, and hopeful for what is yet to come. I am happy to hear that many stores are closing all day on Thanksgiving rather than open to a frenzy of Christmas shoppers. So on this day take some time to remember to “give thanks to God, and bless his name.”
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
when you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Pastor Rachel Moser